The dream of a train line between Africa and Europe is kept alive by recent disclosure from Morroco that talks are on to actualise the dream. But how far has the project gone?
Has the talks break down? Has the technical committee submitted its reports? Is the agenda about to move to design stage? These and many more questions are being asked.The curiosity is because of the socio-economic significance of the project.A mission accomplished means a Pan-European direct link with Africa.When the African high speed rail is completed ,train trip can be undertaken from Poland all the way to Lagos in Nigeria.
A sort of diluted silk road can emerge driving Africans and Europeans more closer than ever before.But is it not a pipe dream? Will Morroco drive the Spanish more aggressively to embrace the project? Or can the royal touch do the magic.The kings of both Spain and Morroco met last year over the matter.Will they meet again?
In reality the New Partnership for African Development should show interest in the project.This should not be left to Morroco alone.A rail connection with Europe should be a pan-African project.
The Morrocan side had announced that talks are underway for a railway line that could soon link Spain and Morocco and connect to the rest of North Africa.Morocco’s Transport Secretary made the historic disclosure. Morocco’s railway infrastructure is already one of the most extensive on the continent, and a new high-speed train – Africa’s first – between Tangier and Casablanca was unveiled in November.
“We have been working for years with Spain for the continental railway line between the two countries, and we are now in the process of deepening technical studies’, Secretary Mohamed Najib Boulif said.
North African countries, including Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya, have supported the idea of a ‘trans-Maghreb train’ for years, but as with many big projects, finance and politics can stand in the way. Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia previously had a linked-up train network, but Algeria closed its land border with Morocco in 1994.
Trains between Algeria and Tunisia stopped in 2006. However, this latest venture could be more promising, as the African Development bank has already given a grant to the project.
Ferries currently ply the stretch of Mediterranean between Spain and Morocco, which at the narrowest point is just 13km wide, but an under-seabed tunnel would likely have to run for 38km, still shorter than the Channel Tunnel (50km) that connects England and France.
The idea of a tunnel connecting Europe to Africa has been suggested since the 19th century, but perhaps this latest vision could more quickly become a reality.