Colonialism and Moroccan Rail Transport

From its first lines until today, the Moroccan railway network has undergone many major changes, especially during the colonial era. Much of the existing network was shaped or built during this same era.


The first lines were built with narrow-gauge rails, meaning that was only 600 mm (smaller than the current standard gauge of 1 435 mm). Some lines were ordered to be built by the French army as early as 1912 and the network was around 1 000 km of narrow-gauge lines by the year 1915. Most of these lines go almost as the routes of the current network.

Narrow-gauge rail network in Morocco around 1915 which was, at that time, one of the largest worldwide.

The decision to adopt standard-gauge came when the first standard-gauge lines were built around 1923. Most of these new standard gauge lines were conversions of the previously built narrow-gauge network. One reason for this standardisation was to allow trains to go between different north African countries which under the French colonisation such as Algeria and Tunisia. Another reason is to connect the railway network with the Moroccan territory which is under the Spanish control in the north.

After the effort of converting and building lines in the standard-gauge rail, the next step was the electrification to make use of the hydraulic-power resources from the Atlas Mountains.


Only half of the trans-Maghreb railway network was electrified.

The electrification process was not as successful as the standardisation of the narrow-gauge rails. Only fewer than 50% of the standard-gauge lines have been electrified. The first section was electrified and put in operation around 1927 in the region of Casablanca. The line used a DC with 3kV.


Around a million passengers were transported on a yearly basis at that time.

The train operations were part of the following 3 concessions starting from 1923: CFM (Chemins de Fer du Maroc), held by French Paris-Orléans (Sidi Kacem-Marrakech), TF (Tangier-Fez), held by French PLM and Spain, and CMO (Chemin de Fer du Maroc Oriental), part of the mining concession of Bouarfa (Fez-Oujda-Bouarfa).

CFM and CMO remained few years even after the independence in 1956. These were later merged into the current ONCF in 1963.

Transport, economics, history and linguistics (among others) feed my interest!