MOROCCO: On February 21 French engineering consultancy Systra announced that its Moroccan subsidiary had been awarded a contract by Oncfm to develop plans for a dedicated passenger line between Settat and Marrakech.

Systra Morocco will be working with local consultants CID, Team Maroc and APTE on the 18-month study, which follows on from a feasibility study for the Casablanca - Marrakech high speed line completed in 2006. The multi-disciplinary team will draw up detailed designs and prepare tender documents for construction of 170 km of double track.

The new line is intended to relieve growing capacity problems on the existing single-track route, which is used by both freight and passenger trains. Connecting with the existing 40 km double-track section between Casablanca and Settat, the new dedicated passenger route would serve intermediate stations at Settat TGV and Benguerir TGV.

The new alignment is being designed for 350 km/h operation, but ONCF initially expects to run at a maximum of 300 km/h. This would cut the Casablanca - Marrakech journey time from 3 h 24 min to 1 h 16 min.