Published on : Saturday, January 21, 2017
The first high-speed train to operate in Africa arrived at the Moroccan port of Tangier. The French-made double-decker TGVs are tested ahead of the launch of a flagship new line connecting Tangier with Morocco’s economic capital Casablanca in 2018.
These new trains can move at a speed of 200 miles per hour and is expected to cut the journey time between the two cities by more than half — to just over two hours.
The train project is approximately of $2 billion and was funded by Morocco, France, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE government.
King Mohammed VI and the Moroccan government expect the trains to deliver wealth and prestige for the country but the opponents have claimed it to be an expensive affair.
These high-speed train are a part of a wider program of infrastructure spending in Morocco, and is inclusive of the world’s largest solar power plant and several major ports, are intended to stimulate a sluggish economy.
The African Development Bank in its “Economic Outlook 2016” for Morocco reported that the Government is continuing its reforms and major investments to improve the business climate and attract foreign investors.
Specially, the Tangiers-Casablanca route is expected to generate a sharp increase in passenger numbers that will boost tourism. It will support wider economic growth in the cities, and recoup the investment on it. Mohamed Rabie Khlie, director general of national rail operator ONCF said that they aim at six million passengers a year after three years of commercial operation, instead of three million currently.
However, looking at the riskier sides, Zouhair Ait Benhamou, an economic analyst at the Financia Business School in France said that the new trains carry risks as well as rewards. This is because the ONCF business model is based on the French model in which trains are heavily subsidized. So, if the number of passengers does not materialize in two to three years, the government will have to provide subsidies.