How is “Al boraq” operated?
An overview of the rolling stock, services and maintenance.
As mentioned before the first inaugural trip of Al boraq was in November 2018 marking the beginning of the operations on the line. Commercial operations started effectively in December 2018.
Trains (rolling stock)
In order to provide the best train services, ONCF have initially ordered 18 trainsets from the French train manufacturer Alstom. The order was reduced later to 14 and then finally settled up to 12 trainsets.
The rolling stock is a new generation of the TGV Duplex (double-decker), also called Euroduplex which is used by SNCF in the French high-speed network. In June 2015, the first components arrived from France to Tangier where the last trainsets were set up by April 2016.
In January 2016, the first tests already started on the conventional existing line between Kenitra and Casablanca. The trains reached a maximal speed of 200 km/h, but commercial runs are set to 160 km/h.
Between February 2017 and June 2018, the run tests were conducted on the newly built high-speed line between Kenitra and Tangier. In May 2018, the maximal registered speed during the tests was 357 km/h making it the African speed record for land transport. The commercial services are, however, set to a maximum of 320 km/h.
Each trainset consists of 2 power cars and 8 bi-level passenger cars including 5 second class, 2 first class and a restaurant/food service car. The combined passenger cars can accommodate up to 533 passengers. The trainsets are the 3rd generation of the TGV Duplex, and are referred to as Alstom Avelia TGV Euroduplex (2N2). They are also locally named ONCF 1200 in Morocco.
The Al Boraq HS line allows for new and improved train services, e.g., reduced travel time, improved comfort and more accessibility.
First and foremost, the commercial speeds lead to significant reductions in the travel time between the served stations on the line. The following table provides details about the different stretches on the line and the corresponding improvements in travel time.
Note that the highest improvement is in the newly built stretch between Tangier and Kenitra with a reduction of up to 76% of the total travel time. The travel time between the northern most railway station (Tangier) and the southernmost one (Marrakesh) is also more than halved, if connecting train services are well scheduled.
After one year of operations, ONCF has scheduled in average up to 28 two-ways trips per day. More than 3 million passengers have travelled in 7000 trains, i.e., average of 8,250 passengers per day with an average passenger load factor of 68 % in weekdays. ONCF hopes to reach 6 million passengers a year in 2022 which is unlikely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Apart from some minor accidents, the train services reached a punctuality of 97 %.
The service frequencies have varied between 10 and 20 two-ways trips per day on some occasions. Due to the sanitary situation in 2020, the services were further reduced to 7 daily trips, if not totally closed due to the lockdown (or curfew) in the served cities.
The HS trains serve four different stations which were renovated in order to provide improved services at key stops, i.e., Casablanca, Rabat, Kenitra and Tangier. Tickets can be bought in the stations or online, and the prices are cheaper if bought before the departure day. The following table gives an idea about the different prices and services.
In addition to the various services in the newly renovated stations, onboard catering also exist thanks to the bistro car in all the trains.
In order to assist with the maintenance, ONCF and SNCF established in 2015 a partnership for a joint venture, i.e., Moroccan HS train maintenance company. The aim is to train new competences and support the newly created Railway Training Institute (IFF for short) in Rabat. The latter is intended to be the main training institute for railroad professionals in Morocco.
Moreover, a maintenance center for the rolling stock is built near Tangier. The center is large enough to host around 30 trainsets. An to monitor the operations on the entire line, a new remote-control center, known as the Network Central Command (CCR), was also built in Rabat.