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Macron in Morocco to unveil French-backed high-speed railway

Macron arrives at Tangiers' train station on November 15, 2018 [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 November, 2018

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The French president and Moroccan king travelled on the high-speed train from Tangiers to the capital Rabat.

France's Emmanuel Macron landed in Morocco on Thursday to take part in the inauguration of Africa and the Arab's world's fastest high-speed train.

King Mohammed VI invited Macron to attend a grand ceremony at Tangiers' newly renovated railway station, with heavy security measures in place. 

Macron will travel with the monarch on the high-speed train from Tangiers, a major port city linking Africa and Europe, to the capital Rabat.

The service between Tangiers and Casablanca, via the capital, will slash journey times between the North African country's economic hubs to just over two hours from nearly five.

Trains will zoom along the newly laid tracks at up to 200 miles per hour - faster than the speeds of up to 185 mph boasted by the new line opened by Saudi authorities last month linking Islam's holiest cities Mecca and Medina via the Red Sea port of Jeddah.

Morocco has heralded the project as a key step in modernising the country after weathering the Arab Spring uprisings born largely out of discontent over inequality and poor public services.

It wants to position itself as an African hub for foreign investors.

The French presidency hailed the railway line as a "flagship project of the bilateral relationship between France and Morocco".

France hopes the high-speed rail project will demonstrate its industrial knowhow so that its companies can secure other contracts in Africa.

Macron is being accompanied by the heads of French companies involved in the project, including Alstom, which supplied France's famous TGV trains, the Ansaldo-Ineo group, and the Colas Rail-Egis Rail consortium.

The president is visiting Morocco four days after King Mohammed took part in World War I centenary commemorations in France.

Hundreds of workers laboured until the last minute to complete the project, which was launched in September 2011 by then French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Moroccan government put the cost of the project at $2.4 billion, nearly 15 percent more than initial estimates but well below average European prices.

Loans from France helped to cover half of that amount.

The new high-speed rail is projected to double ridership between Tangiers, Rabat and Casablanca from three to six million passengers a year, according to the International Railway Journal. 

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