The political turmoil in Algeria has overshadowed a major breakthrough in North African rail development especially after the first high speed rail commissioned in Morroco.It was the completion of El-Qantas rail tunnel in Algeria.
The tunnel was opened early this year amidst the political crisis which the country is still wading through.
The conflict not only cast cloud over this important development but ensured the under-reporting of a major Chinese technological achievement on the continent.It would be recalled that before the Chinese took over the project,several western firms had tried and failed to execute the tunneling and subsequent construction.
Chinese firm working on Gantas railway tunnel however announced in 2017 that it has officially finished cutting through the tunnel .It was a major achievement for a project that had been underway for over six years then.
According to China Railway Construction Corporation Limited (CRCC), the rocky terrain posed significant challenge leading to its suspension in 2011.
“Geological challenges posed by the expansive rocky terrain had to be overcome during the construction of the railway tunnel,” the firm said in a statement.
Wang Wenzhong, the Vice President of the CRCC, said the tunnel is a pivotal point for railways in northern Algeria and boost economic growth along the line.
According to AlgerieEcho,the completion of the tunnel was significant for Algeria because Oran has since then become only 2h30 from Algiers by train. The new tunnel on the axis Algiers-Oran hosted its first trains, after 7 years of work.
Built mainly by the China Railway Construction Corporation, this structure is composed of two independent tubes 7.3 km each and each of the two tubes has a single lane. Alstom delivered the 17 trains that connect the two largest cities in the country at a cruising speed of 220km / h.
Located 100 kilometers west of Algiers, this new tunnel reduces by almost half the journey time between the two largest cities in the country. Today, it takes about 4:30 hours to connect the capital to the city of Oran.
In this regard, the Ministry of Transport and Public Works then announced that “they transport people or goods, trains will be able to pass at an average speed of 220 km / h, against 160 km / h currently,” according to the same media.
Second longest railway tunnel in Africa
The El-Qantas Tunnel is the second longest rail tunnel on the continent, behind the 16.8-kilometer Hex River Tunnel between Cape Town and Johannesburg. Launched in 2011, the construction work had to be postponed several times, because of the topography and the difficult geology of the field, it certainly weighed on the realization costs.
As a reminder, the minister said last February, that the railway in Algeria has gone from 1,800 kilometers of railway network in the year 2000 , to 4,200 km received and put into service.The minister also announced that the network will be raised to 6,300 km with the reception of 2,300 km at the line of the highlands connecting the far east of the country, from the wilaya of Tebessa to Moulay Slissene in the wilaya of Sidi Bel -Abbès.
Algeria’s laudable growth in her railway sector is buried under the ongoing bitter political conflict.