Construction to begin next year on Casablanca tram project
By Mawassi Lahcen for Magharebia in Casablanca – 07/11/08
The City of Casablanca will soon request bids for the construction of the city's first tram system, according to Mayor Mohamed Sajid. The new project is part of a strategic plan to develop the city.
"Building the tram line is a basic pillar in the integrated development plan for Casablanca," said Sajid. "The goal is to achieve a balance in the various areas of the city and end the isolation of the suburbs, connecting them to the dynamic economic and social activities in the city."
Plans for the 28-km tramway were first presented to King Mohammed VI in 2006. Last month, the king signed the request to release the allocated budget.
The line covers the area from northeast Casablanca starting at the Olympic stadium in Sidi Moumen snaking through Hay Mohamadi, the city centre, hospitals, train stations, the airport and the industrial Sidi Maarouf district, until its final destination in the southwestern district of Al Hosna.
Construction of the line will begin early next year, Sajid said. Officials estimate the project will reach completion in five years, with a portion of the network beginning operation in 2012.
The city has planned on a budget of 6.4 billion dirhams for the project, with the national government contributing 1.2 billion dirhams and the rest provided through the municipal budget and loans.
The tram, Sajid said, will also provide Casablanca residents with a clean, environmentally-friendly public means of transportation at fares close to the present rates.
"Naturally, we will work hard to maintain the financial balance of the project. Our objective, however, is to provide a means of intensive public transportation, and ensuring that it is affordable to all members of society."
Hopes are high that the new transportation system will revive the city and urban surroundings. It will be easier for businesses to flourish once the project is done and some areas will be more reachable to tourists.
"The principal goal of the new urban development scheme is to promote Casablanca's social and economic environment," Allal Sakrouhi, director of the Greater Casablanca Urban Agency told Le Reporter.
Sakrouhi said that that the project will help to make the East side of the city more attractive, from Ain Sebaa and Zenata all the way to Mohammedia.
The issue of developing public transit in Casablanca has been on the table for ten years, according to the mayor. At some point, the municipality was considering an underground metro line, but a lack of equipment and sufficient funding were the main obstacles.
"We can say that we found the solution," Sajid said, "through hybrid economic partnership, in which the municipality, government and private sector will participate."
According to Sajid, the municipality created Casablanca Transportation Co. with capital of four billion dirhams to supervise the project. The municipality owns 58% of the capital, with 30% for the government and 10% owned by the Hassan II Fund for Development. The rest is owned by Bank of the People, CDG and the Collaborative Insurance Company. The remaining 2.4 billion dirhams needed for the project will come in the form of bank loans.
Sajid said that the new tram system is only the start. The plan to develop public transportation includes future 76-km tram lines to link the suburbs and neighbouring cities and a 21-km metro line.
"Now all the focus will be on finishing the execution of the project," said Casablanca Governor Mohamed Kabbaj.
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