Casa with fewer cars

Big in­vest­ments in public trans­port should trans­form the lives of com­muters in the next few years

The Africa Report - - COUNTRY FOCUS - Nelly Fualdes for Je­une Afrique and Honoré Banda

Reg­u­lar road­works and the ris­ing num­ber of cars owned by the mid­dle classes make traf­fic snarl in Casablanca, es­pe­cially dur­ing the holy month of Ra­madan. The city’s tramway is a key piece of in­fra­struc­ture to get the city’s pop­u­la­tion to and from work, their homes and leisure ac­tiv­i­ties. Launched to much fan­fare in 2012 and cost­ing $550m, the T1 line of the tram is now 31km long and car­ries an av­er­age of 120,000 peo­ple per day. The T2 line is set to link the sea­side re­sorts of Ain Diab in the west to the work­ing-class neigh­bour­hood of Sidi Bernoussi, next to the air­port in the east, with a travel time of just over an hour. The Casa public trans­port sec­tor is small but grow­ing fast. Trans­port is due to eat up a big share of the funds the city plans to de­vote to its 20182022 de­vel­op­ment plan, which has a global cost of D52bn ($5.4bn). The Casablanca au­thor­i­ties pre­dict that the ad­di­tion of three new lines, one of which will be op­er­a­tional be­fore the end of the year, will boost daily trav­eller num­bers to 400,000 – for a Greater Casablanca pop­u­la­tion of nearly five mil­lion peo­ple – by 2022. By then, the tram net­work will have more than tripled in size to 107km. France’s RATP Dev won a $497m con­tract late last year to man­age and develop the tramway sys­tem. Casa Trans­port di­rec­tor Youssef Draiss says the goal is to re­duce wait­ing times to be­tween five and 10 min­utes. While the tram works cre­ate many tem­po­rary jobs, Casa Trans­port says the T1 line em­ploys about 600 peo­ple di­rectly. French com­pa­nies RATP and Al­stom, which man­u­fac­tures the tram cars, have been the big win­ners in terms of con­tracts so far. Other firms have a chance to make their mark. An­other el­e­ment of the city’s trans­port de­vel­op­ment is the planned launch of a bus rapid transit (BRT) net­work by 2020. BRT ve­hi­cles travel in ded­i­cated lanes to al­low them to travel faster. The gov­ern­ment launched a bid­ding round for the two lines in May and is set to make a de­ci­sion on the con­tract be­fore the end of the year. For those stuck in rush-hour traf­fic jams, the re­lief can­not come soon enough.

A gleam­ing new Al­stom tram on the al­ready op­er­a­tional Line 1

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