Emmanuel Macron arrives in Morocco Thursday for a short visit that will see him inaugurate with King Mohammed VI Tangier-Casablanca high-speed line, considered a showcase of the modernization of the kingdom and the expertise of French companies.
Responding to the invitation of the king, the French head of state will travel with him on board the fast train from Tangier, a major maritime hub between Africa and Europe, to Rabat, the administrative capital.
The first tickets will go on sale after the official inauguration, the line will be open to ordinary travelers by the end of the month, according to information obtained by AFP on the spot.
This high-speed line, presented as the fastest in Africa, runs to Casablanca over 350 km, including 180 to 320 km / h, connecting the two most dynamic regions of the kingdom in 2:10 instead of 4:45 currently.
It is “a flagship project of the bilateral relationship,” says the Elysee. Paris is also presenting this LGV as a showcase to try to obtain other contracts in Africa, which offers “many opportunities” in the railway sector. Morocco is working to position itself as an “African hub” for foreign investors.
“We wanted to make this project a showcase of modernization of the country: it is a challenge that will take and know how to take up,” notes the daily “Les Ecos” in an editorial Thursday.
France remains the main economic partner of Morocco but saw Spain take the first place for trade.
Emmanuel Macron will be accompanied by the bosses of the French companies involved in the project: Alstom (supply of trains), the Ansaldo-Ineo consortium (signaling and telecoms), Cegelec (electrical substations) and the Colas Rail-Egis Rail consortium (tracks and catenary). The SNCF provides assistance with project management at the National Office of Moroccan Railways ( ONCF ).
On the Moroccan side, this visit carries a strong symbolic importance, the only other visit of a head of state this year going back to June with the arrival of the Nigerian president. Mohammed VI will welcome Tangier Emmanuel Macron four days after participating in the celebrations of the centenary of the end of the First World War in Paris.
Hundreds of workers worked until the last minute to complete the project that was launched in September 2011 by the then President Nicolas Sarkozy and visited in September 2015 by Francois Hollande.
The ONCF expects six million passengers after three years of operation. The cost of LGV , financed 50% by France via various loans, amounts to about 23 billion dirhams (two billion euros), nearly 15% more than initial estimates, but well below average European costs, according to the Moroccan Ministry of Transport.
Since its launch, the project has been criticized, users regularly complaining about the state of the network and train delays, two points pinned in the latest report of the Moroccan court of account.
The debate was revived in mid-October with the derailment of a shuttle train that killed 7 people and injured 125 in Kenitra (west), on the Tangier-Casablanca axis.
Emmanuel Macron will be accompanied by Foreign Ministers Jean-Yves Le Drian and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, while migration flows should be addressed during the discussions.
Morocco has become in recent months one of the most important routes to Spain and Europe. Between January and the end of September, 68,000 illegal immigration attempts were halted and 122 “active criminal networks” dismantled, according to the Moroccan authorities.
Faced with this “pressure”, the country has called on its European partners “to join its efforts to fight against trafficking networks” in the Mediterranean.