A structural fund to finance urban transport in Morocco

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This article was initially published in Public Transport Trends 2015.

Interview with Nour-Eddine Boutayeb, Wali Secretary General of the Ministry of Interior, Kingdom of Morroco, about Morocco’s policy to develop its urban transport with dedicated lanes. In 2011, it opened two tram lines of 19 km in Rabat and a tram line of 31 km in Casablanca in late 2012. The aim is to continue this approach by investing over the next decade around € 3 billion in urban transport. As Wali Secretary General of the Ministry of Interior,Mr Boutayeb has supervised the governance of the Fonds d’Accompagnement des Réformes du Transport routier urbain et interurbain (FART) (special fund for transport reforms) and the allocation of resources for urban public transport projects.

Mr Boutayeb, how would you describe mobility and its challenges in Moroccan cities?

Over the last few decades, there has been a strong growth in demand for mobility as a result of economic growth and urban sprawl. However, it was long recognised that urban public transport would have to finance itself from tariff revenues alone. This has prevented the emergence of good-quality urban public transport. Other negative factors – in terms of the performance of the operators of urban public transport – have been the growth in car ownership and the emergence of independent or informal transport. These have locked the sector into a negative spiral.

A few years ago, the State decided to provide financial support to the cities, so that they can equip themselves with efficient urban public transport. This will improve the service offered to users and make urban areas more attractive.

In the two main urban areas, a decision was taken to build a tram system. What prompted this choice?

These decisions were made by the councils of those cities and were mainly influenced by cost factors and mobility needs. The tram lines that have been built or planned are key transport routes, around which the rest of the network will be linked.

What has been the public’s reaction to the new transport systems? Have they already had a measurable impact on mobility?

The current projects for tram lines have quickly proved to be crucial means of urban transport, carrying more than 100,000 users/day in Rabat and 120,000 in Casablanca. These local initiatives are also notable successes because they have boosted the confidence of citizens, supported the development of Moroccan know-how and helped to strengthen territorial cohesion and social diversity.

What are Morocco’s goals for mobility? How will the funds released by the State be targeted in future?

The State seeks to support the cities, so they can develop a clear vision of urban mobility for the next decade. This will mean adopting new governance frameworks that focus on bringing together districts from the same metropolitan area. It will also involve separating investment activities and operational activities, by creating local development companies (SDL) tasked with investing and making contracts with private operators.

The priorities identified are the setting up of public transport routes with dedicated lanes in Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech, Agadir and Tangier. 

In terms of investments, the priorities identified are the setting up of public transport routes with dedicated lanes (tram line and/or BHNS bus services) in the cities of Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech, Agadir and Tangier. The first agreement on the setting up of a global network was signed in September 2014 with the city of Casablanca, for a total of € 1.6 billion.

Since 2014, the funding has come from the special fund for transport reforms, which with the districts jointly funds the initial investments and handles the loans taken out. Moreover, it can help with the operating deficit during the first three years of operation.

The reform underway encourages the districts concerned to seek financial support from the special fund for transport reforms by submitting the application files for their dedicated-lane transport projects. The SDL, which are jointly held by the State and districts, therefore play a key role in this field. The Casa Transport company and the Société du tramway de Rabat-Salé are examples on which the State intends to build, in order to help all urban areas in Morocco with setting up efficient public transport systems.

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