ALGERIAN Railways is poised to launch a major programme of modernisation that will include electrification of at least half the 3974route-km network. Recognition that rail faces growing competition from road transport has prompted SNTF to make major structural changes, paving the way for financial support from the World Bank.

Modernisation will cover the whole network, with at least half electrified by 2012; SNTF's only electrified line at the moment is the 283 km Djebel Onk - Annaba iron ore route, wired at 3 kV DC. Priority is likely to go to the Alger region, where over 300 route-km have been identified for electrification and upgrading for 160 km/h.

SNTF has appointed Germany's DE-Consult to help with its plans, and the consultants have already drawn up proposals for construction of three remote-controlled substations and for design of overhead line equipment. This followed earlier assessment of power supply requirements and examination of geological and ground conditions.

Wiring will also require bridge reconstruction, in some cases with new structures. An assessment of electromagnetic interference on signalling and communications equipment has also been made, and the consultancy is working on preparation of tender documents and defining requirements for testing and commissioning.

SNTF's modernisation plans envisage track doubling over 372 km and conversion of the Blida - Djelfa and Tizi - Béchar lines from 1055mm to 1435mm gauge.