In 2018, Morocco will operate Africa’s fastest train, at an unprecedented speed of 320km/h. The planned route will run from Tangier in northwestern Morocco – a major city considered to be a gateway between Africa and Europe – to Casablanca, the country’s largest city situated in the central western region.
The project is said to be worth $2 billion (about R26 million), with funding from the governments of Morocco, France, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The French-made double-decker trains are being tested, and once operational will reduce the usual five-hour rail journey to Casablanca down to two hours.
Tangier is an entry point for tourists from Morocco’s neighbouring Mediterranean countries who arrive by flight or ferry and who would usually travel by rail to reach Casablanca. The current rail system transports an estimated 3 million commuters each year on the route, a number that national rail operator ONCF expects to rise following the launch of the new trains.
The original launch date was planned for December 2015 but logistical issues have delayed the project, and the official 2018 date is yet to be confirmed. The project is going ahead despite reported opposition to it. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and the government are optimistic the high-speed train will promote the country and encourage tourism.
The fare is expected to be about $20 (about R260) one way, a price officials believe will make the new train system accessible to all travellers.