Railway construction companies, civil works and their auxiliary industries have a new preferential objective: the new high-speed rail network in Morocco. Rabat has a megaplan of almost 35,000 million euros underway to expand its railway lines and renew its rolling stock, and the large Spanish corporations have begun to take positions and activate their machinery hand in hand with the Government. Spain’s greatest rival in this process is its neighbor to the north, France, backed by a historic relationship with the Kingdom of Morocco and which was already in charge of launching the first high-speed line in the country seven years ago, from hand of Alstom and the French Government and financial institutions.
The talks with Spain intensified during the Spanish-Moroccan summit held in February, when the Ministry of Transport revealed, without giving great details, that several Spanish companies were busy in the different infrastructure projects that the Alaouite kingdom is carrying out. Then, the Spanish Minister of the Ramo, Raquel Sánchez, Met with the Ministers of Transport and Logistics, Mohammed Abdeljalil, and Infraesturas Yggu, Nizar Barak A, to “ADDRESS ISSUES of Common Interest” and Trasladarles The Interest of Large Spanish Companies For participate in the projects of the African territory.
Both governments came out of those meetings signing a Memorandum of Understanding — whose content has not been revealed, as is usual in this type of agreement — whose purpose is to “promote diverse and numerous numbers of collaboration in all modes of transport, especially the railway and its infrastructures”. The only one that was made known is the reactivation of the committee dedicated to reactivating the tunnel under the Strait of Gibraltar to connect both countries.
“Spain would like to be present in new infrastructure developments, particularly in plans to expand the high-speed rail network and the airport network,” the minister said at the time. These plans include capacity expansions at the Marrakech, Tangier and Agadir airports, as well as improvements and expansions in the port network, navigation aids and maritime traffic control. The agreement opens the door to collaborations in the construction of lines, operation of railway services, maintenance of material, training or start-up of technological systems.
Investments of 35,000 million euros
But the most desired piece is the railway. Rabat has a plan to transform its railway network under way that will mobilize 34,722 million euros until 2040. This includes the construction of 1,100 kilometers of new high-speed lines, such as those that will link Kenitra and Casablanca with Marrakech —for which it will double the current path—; a later expansion to Agadir, on the oceanic coast; or an east-west line that connects Rabat with Oujda. All these aircraft are under study.
To Rabat’s intentions we must add another 1,600 kilometers of conventional network, the connection of the network with 9 ports or the rehabilitation of a good part of the current network. From this ambitious plan, Morocco has already budgeted 2,140 million euros in investments until 2025, part of which will go to the acquisition of 100 trains, although most of them will have to be built on its soil with a view to establishing a local industry that will also in dedicated to its maintenance.
a market to explore
With almost 4,000 kilometers of tracks, the Moroccan railway operator (ONCF) barely transports 34 million passengers per year, figures almost equal to the total number of inhabitants of the country (37 million). The railway infrastructure, although in the process of being improved, is still far from European standards: it has 600 kilometers of double track and some 1,500 km of the electrified network. By comparison, Spain, with a surface area smaller than its southern neighbour, has around 4,000 kilometers of fully electrified high-speed network and another 10,000 km of conventional network that serve 500 million passengers each year.
Spanish companies have been increasing their presence in the country in recent years, with important milestones such as the agreements signed by Renfe and Adif with the ONCF for technical assistance or the installation of the DaVinci security system, which the Spanish Administrator transferred free of charge to the Moroccan entity. Firms such as CAF or Bombardier have exported their signaling technology, while others such as ArcelorMittal, Ayesa or ICF have carried out different works, according to ICEX records.
Last week there was also a business meeting organized by the CEOE where the top managers of companies and authorities from both countries announced the opportunities for collaboration and business. The event had the participation of leading transport companies such as ALSA or Balearia, which already operate in Morocco with bus services or maritime relations with Spain.
France, the great rival to beat
The historical relationship between France and Morocco has meant that the French industry maintains a very close relationship with the African territory, participating in the construction of large infrastructure projects and forming part of the daily management of many of them. The French Government mobilized 1,000 million euros in credits to finance the first African high-speed line, Al-Boraq. Commissioned in 2016, it connects Tangier with Kenitra in 2 hours and 10 minutes, near Rabat and also near Casablanca.
France, in charge of 51% of the project, mobilized its funds through the French Reserve for Emerging Countries, which financed the rolling stock with a loan of 625 million euros; the French Development Agency, which contributed 300 million euros for a sleeper factory and the construction of viaducts; and the gala treasury itself, with a donation of 75 million for technical assistance. The trains that provide the service came from Alstom, a multinational construction company of French origin, but also based in Spain.