11:36 am - Tuesday December 18, 2018

TOURISM: MOROCCO Gets AFRICA’S First High-speed Train at a whooping cost of $2billion…10 year decade project funded by the governments of Morocco, France, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates * French President Emmanuel Macron and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI inaugurated train * New trains made by manufacturer Alstom and can reach speeds of 200 miles per hour *It’s double the speed of South Africa’s Gautrain launched in 2012, which falls short of the criteria of high-speed rail * “We aim at six million passengers a year after three years of commercial operation, instead of three million currently”- Mohamed Rabie Khlie, director general of national rail operator * ‘The Government is continuing its reforms and major investments to improve the business climate and attract foreign investors’- African Development Bank BY GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU/AMERICAN FOREIGN BUREAU CHIEF

TOURISM:

MOROCCO Gets AFRICA’S First High-speed Train at a whooping cost of $2billion…10 year decade project funded by the governments of Morocco, France, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates

* French President Emmanuel Macron and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI inaugurated train

* New trains made by manufacturer Alstom and can reach speeds of 200 miles per hour

*It’s double the speed of South Africa’s Gautrain launched in 2012, which falls short of the criteria of high-speed rail

* “We aim at six million passengers a year after three years of commercial operation, instead of three million currently”- Mohamed Rabie Khlie, director general of national rail operator

* ‘The Government is continuing its reforms and major investments to improve the business climate and attract foreign investors’- African Development Bank

BY GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU/AMERICAN FOREIGN BUREAU CHIEF

MOROCCO HAS BECOME THE GREATEST PACESETTER IN AFRICA’S TOURISM AS IT ROLLS OUT A HIGH-TECH TRAIN which costs the sum of $2billion as funded by the governments of Morocco, France, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates, UAE in a 10 year project decade.

Morocco gets Africa’s first high-speed train French President Emmanuel Macron and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI inaugurated Africa’s first high-speed train line on Thursday. These high-speed trains are flashing along the Atlantic coast of Morocco. The French-made double-decker TGVs are being tested today ahead of the launch of a flagship new line connecting Tangier with Morocco’s economic capital Casablanca in November. The new trains are made by manufacturer Alstom and can reach speeds of 200 miles per hour.

They will cut the journey time between the two cities by more than half — to just over two hours. This is double the speed of South Africa’s Gautrain launched in 2012, which falls short of the criteria of high-speed rail. The $2 billion project has been in development for a decade, funded by the governments of Morocco, France, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE. King Mohammed VI and the Moroccan government expect the trains to deliver wealth and prestige for the country. But opponents claim they are an expensive folly.

Speculate to accumulate:

High-speed trains fit within a wider program of infrastructure spending in Morocco, including the world’s largest solar power plant and several major ports that is intended to stimulate a sluggish economy.

“The Government is continuing its reforms and major investments to improve the business climate and attract foreign investors,” reported the African Development Bank in its ‘Economic Oulook 2016’ for Morocco.

Report has it that the Tangiers-Casablanca route is expected to generate a sharp increase in passenger numbers that will boost tourism, support wider economic growth in the cities, and recoup the investment on it.

Mohamed Rabie Khlie, director general of national rail operator ONCF reportedly said: “We aim at six million passengers a year after three years of commercial operation, instead of three million currently. This should enable us to achieve an operating margin that far exceeds that of conventional trains and will justify the development.”

The director general went on to add that growing passenger numbers had caused “saturation of the network,” making the new line a necessity. He denied that an upgraded service would lead to high costs for passengers. “We will run trains intended for Moroccans and thus adapted to the purchasing power of Moroccans,” said Khlie. “We do not want a train reserved for high-end customers.”

The new trains carry risks as well as rewards, according to Zouhair Ait Benhamou, an economic analyst at the Financial Financial Scheme in France, when he said: “The ONCF business model is based on the French model in which trains are heavily subsidized. If the number of passengers does not materialize in two to three years, the government will have to provide subsidies.”

The government will hope to stimulate new economic activity in areas along the route, according to the analyst. His words: “I suspect there are some places the government wants to develop as new tourist areas. They could also attract an automaker to build a facility. Peugeot is thinking about creating a plant in Kenitra and if the high speed train goes through this city it would create a logistics hub for them.”

The new train line will impress foreign investors but they are likely to remain wary of Morocco, according to Riccardo Fabiani, a senior analyst at the Eurasia Group.

“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,” he says. “But there are other problems with the domestic economy.”

But despite such reservations, the project is almost certainly too far advanced now to be stopped in its tracks. The high-speed Tangier to Casablanca service will soon be welcoming its first passengers.

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