Africa’s First High-Speed Trains Debut In Morocco
By Sharelle Burt
Travelers in Africa will be able to get from Tangiers to Morocco’s commercial hub, Casablanca, in record time thanks to TGV trains, the first high-speed train to operate in Africa.
The French-made trains will cut the trip in half. Beating South Africa’s Gautrain, this train holds speeds up to 200mph. It usually takes almost five hours to get from Tangiers to Casablanca, a 215-mile distance. The new trains will get there within two hours and 10 minutes.
Starting in 1981, TGV trains are the crème de la crème of modern trains in Europe. State officials are hopeful that the project attracts foreign visitors as well as Moroccan citizens, helping them get around faster. “If you are a businessman deciding to install an operation in Africa and you are torn between Morocco and another country, this kind of modern world-class infrastructure could help tip the balance,” Eurasia Group senior analyst Riccardo Fabiani said.
The $2 billion project, called LGV, was first introduced in 2011 by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and France’s former President Nicolas Sarkozy and included other Arab countries like United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. King Mohammed expects the trains to bring wealth and prestige to the country, however, there has been some backlash. Critics feel that the funding of the project hides the problems in some of the country’s poorer regions.
Others feel that that the attention should be geared towards other issues outside of transportation to impress foreign leaders. Campaigns like “Stop TGV” argues such investments could be better used. “Morocco is a poor country and the top priority should be education,” says Omar Balafraj, campaign leader and member of parliament for the Federation of the Democratic Left party. Despite all the reservations, the project is already on track, with the system being inaugurated by King Mohammed VI and French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday.
The double-decker trains are in route to leave every hour and are set carry close to six million passengers within the first three years. Currently, there are 14 trains capable of carrying 533 passengers each. Costs to ride the train will cost almost 30 percent more than the current train route, which costs between $14 to $27.