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    Morocco’s Railways Office to Invest $848 Million in Infrastructure Rehabilitation

    ONCF takes steps to modernize the Moroccan railway sector and strengthen connectivity between regions and major economic centers across the country.

    04 Nov 2021

    Rabat - Morocco’s National Railways Office (ONCF) has announced plans to invest MAD 7.7 billion ($848 million) between 2022-2024 to upgrade the country’s rail network and train stations.

    A report on Public Establishments and Enterprises (EEP) accompanying the 2022 finance bill draft announced the ONCF plan.

    The main objective of the investment is to rehabilitate ONCF infrastructure and renew its stock material, according to the report.

    This program, spread over 2022 with MAD 2.9 billion ($319.559 million), 2023 with MAD 2.22 billion ($244.345 million) and 2024 with MAD 2.6 billion ($286.166 million), is part of ONCF’s efforts to implement “an institutional and organizational restructuring plan” aimed at “modernizing the Moroccan railway sector,” the report explained.

    It added that the rehabilitation projects will be implemented in “alignment with international best practices advocating the separation between commercial operation, on the one hand, and infrastructure development and financing, on the other hand.”

    ONCF and Morocco’s government agreed on these investment plans on July 25, 2019, but the agreement has still not been finalized.

    According to the report, ONCF and the government have still not defined “the appropriate financing plan to accelerate the development of the Moroccan rail sector in terms of land use planning as well as to strengthen connectivity between the country’s regions and major economic centers.”

    The objective of this joint agreement is also to “regularize” the financial situation of the ONCF whose finances showed a debt of nearly MAD 43 billion ($4.738.291 million) at the end of 2020.

    According to the government, ONCF’s major investment projects exceeded MAD 50 billion ($5.50 billion) over the period 2010-2020. These investments along with the losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic remain the main reasons behind the ONCF present high debt ratio of 193%.

    Among ONCF’s flagship projects in recent years was the launch in 2018 of Al Boraq, the high-speed train connecting Casablanca and Tangier.

    Other notable investments included the suppression of 191 railway crossings and the equipment of 174 others with automatic notification systems and closing barriers.

    Such measures, taken with the aim of making the country’s railway system safer, were reported to have been successful in reducing the number of accidents and deaths.

    In spite of its overwhelmingly high debt ratio and other financial challenges, ONCF has remained reliable for “sustainable mobility” across Morocco.

    The company carried 21.1 million passengers in 2020 and plans to end this year with 30 million. In terms of freight, this year’s forecasts indicate a volume of 8.4 million tonnes of goods and 15 million tonnes of phosphates, up and down from 8.1 million and 16.4 million tonnes respectively in 2020.

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