Engineers in Morocco are all on their best preparing to test what seems to be Africa’s first high-speed railway this week with trains reaching 320kmh, the country’s rail office said Monday, AFP reports.
One train reached 275 kph on Monday along a stretch of track between the northern cities of Kenitra and Tangiers, the ONCF said.
French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian said that the train is already the fastest on the African continent. Le Drian was in Morocco to sign a loan deal between the ONCF and the French Development Agency.
“The railway is emblematic of the Franco-Moroccan bilateral relationship”. He further said. The link between Casablanca and Tangiers via the capital Rabat will slash journey times between the North African country’s economic hubs by almost two thirds, to just over two hours.
Morocco’s TGV, which gets its name from the French abbreviation for high-speed trains, is set to enter service in summer 2018.
The total cost of the project, 50% financed by France through various loans, is around US$2.4 billion (RM10.15 billion).
It is set to go around 15% over budget, according to figures released on Monday. But ONCF head Rabii Lakhlii said the project had cost “less than 9 million euros/km, compared to a European standard of 20 million euros/km”.
The route, made more complex by hilly terrain and strong winds, required the building of several viaducts including one some 3.5km long. The ONCF is targeting six million travellers a year after three years of operations.
Lakhlii said tickets would cost about 30% more than those for the current rail link. Moroccan leaders have heralded the project as a key step in modernising the country’s infrastructure.