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.


British Steel collapses, threatening thousands of jobs

Updated 22 May 2019
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British Steel collapses, threatening thousands of jobs

LONDON: British Steel Ltd. has been ordered into liquidation as it struggles with industry-wide troubles and Brexit, threatening 5,000 workers and another 20,000 jobs in the supply chain.
The company had asked for a package of support to tackle issues related to Britain’s pending departure from the European Union. Talks with the government failed to secure a bailout, and the Insolvency Service announced the liquidation on Wednesday.
“The immediate priority following my appointment as liquidator of British Steel is to continue safe operation of the site,” said David Chapman, the official receiver, referring to the Scunthorpe plant in northeast England.
The company will continue to trade and supply its customers while Chapman considers options for the business. A team from financial firm EY will work with the receiver and all parties to “secure a solution.”
“To this end they have commenced a sale process to identify a purchaser for the businesses,” EY said in a statement.
The government said it had done all it could for the company, including providing a 120 million pound ($152 million) bridging facility to help meet emission trading compliance costs. Going further would not be lawful as it could be considered illegal state aid, Business Secretary Greg Clark said.
“I have been advised that it would be unlawful to provide a guarantee or loan on the terms of any proposals that the company or any other party has made,” he said.
Unions had called for the government to nationalize the business, but the government demurred.
The opposition Labour Party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson described the news as “devastating.”
“It is testament to the government’s industrial policy vacuum, and the farce of its failed Brexit,” he said in a tweet.
The crisis underscores the anxieties of British manufacturers, who have been demanding clarity around plans for Britain’s departure from the EU. Longstanding issues such as uncompetitive electricity prices also continue to deter investment in UK manufacturing, said Gareth Stace, the director-general of UK Steel, the trade association of the industry.
“Many of our challenges are far from unique to steel — the whole manufacturing sector is crying out for certainty over Brexit,” Stace said. “Unable to decipher the trading relationship the UK will have with its biggest market in just five months’ time, planning and decision making has become nightmarish in its complexity.”
Greybull Capital, which bought British Steel in 2016 for a nominal sum, said turning around the company was always going to be a challenge. It praised the trade union and management team, but said Brexit-related issues proved to be insurmountable.
“We are grateful to all those who supported British Steel on the attempted journey to resurrect this vital part of British industry,” it said in a statement.