Move over, Japan: Next year, Africa will debut its first high-speed train, in Morocco.
Testing has begun on the French-made double-decker train cars that will reach speeds of 200 mph, CNN reports. Expected to fully roll out in 2018, the trains will carry passengers from Tangier to Casablanca and cut travel time more than in half.
Funded by governments in Morocco, France, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, the project costs $2 billion and is expected to help ferry passengers from city to city in a little more than two hours. (For reference, the drive is about three-and-a-half hours.)
Tangier, an entry point for many coming to Morocco on flights or ferries from Spain, Italy, and other Mediterranean countries, is currently about five hours by rail from Casablanca.
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Current trains carry about three million people annually along the coast between the two, but the Moroccan national rail operator ONCF anticipates that number will grow once the new cars begin service next year, with the aim of six million passengers a year after three years of operation. The trains, which don't have an exact launch date yet, were originally scheduled to run in December 2015, but construction and infrastructure delays have plagued the project.
Fares for the train have not been announced, but they will likely be more expensive than the current train ticket, which costs about $20 one-way, while flights are around $200 round-trip.
Still, officials say it won't set travelers back too much: "We will run trains intended for Moroccans and thus adapted to the purchasing power of Moroccans," ONCF's director general Mohamed Rabie Khlie told Le Monde. "We do not want a train reserved for high-end customers."