Morocco railway has fastest journey time in Arab world

A carriage of a high speed train TGV produced by Alstom is loaded on a ship leaving for Tangiers, Morocco. (AFP)
Updated 16 November 2018
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Morocco railway has fastest journey time in Arab world

  • Trains will zoom along the newly laid tracks at up to 320kph
  • Morocco puts cost of the project at 23 billion dirhams ($2.4 billion)

TANGIERS: French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Morocco on Thursday to take part in the inauguration of a high-speed railway line that boasts the fastest journey times in Arab world.
The French leader, who was invited by King Mohammed VI, will attend a grand ceremony at Tangiers' newly renovated train station, with heavy security measures put in place.
The service between Tangiers and Casablanca, via the capital, will slash journey times between the North African country's economic hubs to just over two hours from nearly five.
Trains will zoom along the newly laid tracks at up to 320 kilometers per hour (200 miles per hour).
Morocco has heralded the project as a key step in modernising the country after weathering the Arab Spring uprisings born largely out of discontent over inequality and poor public services.
It wants to position itself as an African hub for foreign investors.
The French presidency hailed the railway line as a "flagship project of the bilateral relationship between France and Morocco."
Macron's one-day working visit "reflects the depth of bilateral relations based on a solid and strong partnership" between the two countries, said the official MAP news agency.
France hopes the high-speed rail project will demonstrate its industrial knowhow so that its companies can secure other contracts in Africa.
"We want to make this project a showcase of the modernisation of the country: It is a challenge that we can take up," the Les Ecos newspaper wrote in an editorial Thursday.
Macron is being accompanied by the heads of French companies involved in the project, including Alstom, which supplied France's famous TGV trains, the Ansaldo-Ineo group, and the Colas Rail-Egis Rail consortium.
The president is visiting Morocco four days after King Mohammed took part in World War I centenary commemorations in France.
Hundreds of workers laboured until the last minute to complete the project, which was launched in September 2011 by then French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
The Moroccan government put the cost of the project at 23 billion dirhams ($2.4 billion), nearly 15 percent more than initial estimates but well below average European prices.
Loans from France helped to cover half of that amount.


SNC-Lavalin writes down $910m in oil assets amid Saudi trade doubts

Updated 3 min 57 sec ago
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SNC-Lavalin writes down $910m in oil assets amid Saudi trade doubts

LONDON: Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin has written down $910 million in oil and gas assets amid continuing uncertainty over trade relations with Saudi Arabia.
The Canadian engineering giant had picked up a string of major contracts in the Kingdom before a diplomatic dispute between the two countries last summer clouded the outlook for future orders.
The firm said on Friday that near-term prospects for the business were worsening in the face of rising trade challenges in the Kingdom.
“We disclosed back in August the potential effects of the Canadian- Saudi issue, and I think that in itself doesn’t affect the work we do today and the backlog we have,” said SNC-Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce in a video presentation accompanying the company’s full year results. “But it does put a lot of uncertainty into the future prospects because Saudi have been pretty clear that they are looking wherever they choose to maybe omit us from bidding things that traditionally we would have bid,” he said.
The writedown contributed to a C$1.6 billion ($1.2 billion) fourth-quarter loss at the contractor. The engineering company also faces headwinds in Latin America, where it reported a
C$346 million loss related to what analysts understand to be Chilean state-run miner Codelco’s Chuquicamata copper mine.
As a result, SNC-Lavalin expects lower annual revenue from its metals and mining business.
Closer to home, the company is also in the middle of a political crisis that has enveloped Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, leading to the recent resignation of one of his key aides and a minister, Reuters reported.
The crisis follows allegations that Trudeau’s officials pressured a former minister to allow SNC to escape with a fine and avoid a trial over charges of bribing
Libyan officials.
Saudi Arabia has been a lucrative market for the Canadian engineering giant.
Last April the contractor was appointed by Saudi Aramco to install additional facilities for a major gas processing facility in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province.
The following month it also bagged a contract for a major district cooling plant in Makkah.