Dreaming of the trans-Maghreb
A start was made by railfreight links to and from the large phosphate mines of Algeria, with a Chinese consortium wanting to invest substantial amounts of money therein. A port project is another element. The dream of a trans-Maghreb railway is being reborn.
In November 2018 a consortium of Chinese companies signed an agreement with Algeria to invest USD 6 billion in the exploitation of phosphate deposits in the eastern regions of the country. Logistics is an important part of the planning process.
USD 2 billion for railway lines
Anesrif, the Algerian agency for investment in railway lines, has a budget of approximately USD 2 billion. In 2019 it is making a major effort for the modernisation and expansion of a route called the ‘east mining line’, which is a key element for the transportation of phosphate.
In November, five public invitations to tender were issued for the section between Annaba, on the Mediterranean Sea, and the Djebel Onk mine in northeaster Algeria. The projects include electrification, signalling and track work. The undertakings are scheduled to start this June.
Chinese funds for a huge project
Anesrif also wants to connect the city of El Affroun, about 60 km southwest of Algiers, to the central port of El Hamdania, which is now being built. This will require half of the budget for all rail projects, or approximately USD 1 billion. The body’s plans for the undertaking are gigantic, as the port is expected to be able to handle approximately 6.5 million teu and 26 million t of goods a year once all of it is completed. In February Enterprise Portuaire de Cherchell mandated Hamburg-based HPC to elaborate plans.
Functioning rail services from Morocco to Tunisia are an old desideratum. In con- crete terms, such a network will involve the recommissioning and modernisation of existing lines, such as a 360 km track from the northern Moroccan city of Fez to Algeria, running via Oujda (Morocco) and Zouj Beghal (Algeria), both on the border of the countries. It includes 500 km in Algeria.
Inter-Maghreb railway link
The link could facilitate traffic between Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, amongst other things, which has been modest so far. Tunisia, the country oriented most strongly towards the Maghreb, conducts around 5% of its foreign trade with its neighbours.
The general secretariat of the Arab Maghreb Union has drawn its conclusions from a feasibility study and is planning to attract investors from March onwards to rehabilitate railway lines.