Morocco to invest $2.6 billion in high-speed rail

CASABLANCA Tue Nov 27, 2007 11:50am EST

CASABLANCA Nov 27 (Reuters) - Morocco plans to invest 20 billion dirhams ($2.61 billion) to build a high-speed rail line linking the northern city of Tangier to the country's commercial capital, Casablanca, its transport minister said on Tuesday.

"The project cost is estimated at 20 billion dirhams and will cut the journey between the two cities to two hours and 10 minutes instead of five hours and 45 minutes currently," Karim Ghellab told reporters.

The high-speed train line would carry 8 million passengers a year after it starts in 2013, he added.

In October, Morocco and France had signed an agreement on the rail project to allow French companies, including rail firm Alstom (ALSO.PA), to design, build, operate and maintain the super high-speed rail link.

Ghellab said Morocco was mulling a second high-speed rail link between Casablanca and Marrakech, the North African country's main tourist destination, by 2015.

"Cost and other financial aspects of this second project are still under consideration," he said.

Morocco plans to invest more than $15 billion to upgrade its basic infrastructure, including roads, ports, airports for the 2002-2015 period to bolster its economic competitiveness amid efforts to turn the country into a platform of investment and exports to the European Union and United States.

The country is linked by free-trade agreements with both the U.S and EU. (Reporting Zakia Abdennebi, editing by Will Waterman)

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