Casablanca–Tangier high-speed rail line
|Termini||Tanger-Ville railway station (Tangiers)|
Casa-Voyageurs railway station (Casablanca)
|Opened||15 November 2018|
|Line length||323 km (201 mi)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Operating speed||320 km/h (200 mph)|
The Casablanca—Tangier high-speed rail line (also called Al Boraq) is a high-speed rail line in Morocco that is the first on the African continent. The line was inaugurated on 15 November 2018 by King Mohammed VI of Morocco following over a decade of planning and construction by Moroccan national railway company ONCF. It is the first phase of what is planned to eventually be a 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) high-speed rail network in Morocco.
Early studies into the feasibility of high-speed rail in Morocco began in 2003, and by 2006 the route between Tangier and Kenitra had been identified as being among the first lines to be constructed. In 2007, preliminary agreements to manage the project had been signed, and ONCF announced plans to purchase 18 Alstom trainsets. In 2008, ONCF said that it planned to begin construction that year, with operations to begin in 2013.
Financing was not finalised until February 2010, when ONCF signed agreements worth 20 billion dirhams (DH). Direct investments came from the Moroccan government, which allocated DH4.8 billion to the project, and European sources, which invested a total of DH1.9 billion, while the remaining DH12.3 billion came from commercial loans. DH10 billion was planned to be spent on infrastructure, with DH5.6 billion going to supporting equipment and DH4.4 billion to rolling stock. At the time, work was expected to start in mid-2010, with service beginning in December 2015. In December 2010, ONCF signed a final agreement to purchase 14 Alstom Euroduplex trainsets. Following further delays, construction of the line began on 29 September 2011, when a ceremonial groundbreaking took place in Tangier.
On 25 September 2012, construction began on a project to increase capacity on the trackage between Kenitra and Casablanca by constructing a dedicated freight track in the existing right of way, allowing for passenger trains to access Casablanca from the high-speed line to Tangier. In addition to the rail construction, stations in four locations (Tangiers, Kenitra, Rabat/Agdal, and Casablanca) were either constructed from the ground up or rebuilt from existing facilities. On 19 June 2015, rolling stock deliveries began with the arrival of the first trainset in Tangier. In September, the service facility for the trains in Tangier was completed and a joint venture between ONCF and French rail operator SNCF was established to maintain the trains for a 15-year contract. In February 2017, testing of the trains at revenue speeds began; during the test program an African rail speed record of 357 kilometres per hour (222 mph) was set.
In October 2017, track construction was completed, followed by the new electric catenary in November. The electrical system was energised for the first time in January 2018, and the line's control facility came online in February. By mid-2018, construction of stations had been completed, though the estimated beginning of service had been pushed back until the end of the year as trial runs over the route had yet to be operated.
On 15 November 2018, the service was inaugurated in a ceremony at Tangier and a special train that operated to Rabat, with revenue service planned to begin by the end of the year. King Mohammed VI named the high-speed service Al Boraq, in reference to the mythical creature that transported the Islamic prophets. By December 25, 2018, trains were scheduled to depart Casablanca every two hours from 06:00 until 21:00.
The line is constructed in two sections—a new route from Tangier to Kenitra and an upgrade of the existing route from Kenitra to Casablanca. The 186 kilometres (116 mi) Tangier–Kenitra line has a top speed of 320 kilometres per hour (200 mph), while the 137 kilometres (85 mi) Kenitra–Casablanca line was rated for 160 kilometres per hour (99 mph) when service began, with a planned upgrade to 220 kilometres per hour (140 mph). The trackage from Kenitra to Casablanca is planned to be eventually replaced by a new high-speed right of way, with construction scheduled to begin in 2020. Two electrification types are used—from Tangier to Kenitra the new trackage was built with 25 kV at 50 Hz, while the line from Kenitra to Casablanca retained the existing 3 kV DC catenary. The ETCS-type signal system was installed by Ansaldo STS and Cofely Ineo.
At the launch of service in 2018, the travel time between Casablanca and Tangier was reduced from 4 hours and 45 minutes to 2 hours and 10 minutes. The completion of dedicated high-speed trackage into Casablanca would further reduce the end-to-end travel time to 1 hour and 30 minutes.
The 12 (14 originally ordered) Alstom Euroduplex trainsets operating on the line are bilevel trains, with each set comprising two power cars and eight passenger cars. The passenger capacity is 533 across two first-class cars, five second-class cars, and a food-service car.
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