By Hassan Benmehdi
Casablanca, Sept 27 ,2012
Casablancans are preparing to welcome a new type of public transportation on December 12th: the tram.
Preparations are forging ahead and the kingdom’s most populous city has enjoyed an unusual level of excitement over the last month or more due to the pace of the work at the various sites along the route.
It seems the whole city will be ready for what Casablancans are calling the “12/12/12 deadline”.
In a statement to Magharebia, Abdelkader Al Menyaoui, a member of the Casablanca City Council, said everything has been put in place for the tram to be a success, but that the success of a project such as this “absolutely requires a contribution from the people of Casablanca, who now need to take care of their tram system and prevent any acts of vandalism”.
Approximately 700 employees are being trained by experts to operate the system and the project has required a total investment of 6 billion dirhams.
Youssef Draiss, the managing director of the company contracted to build the tramway, pointed out that a lot needed to be done in terms of changing road users’ behaviour to acknowledge that trams have priority.
“We’ve launched awareness campaigns, which will run on into 2013. There will also be officers and inspectors to support it,” Draiss said. “We are also counting on the involvement of the police for the first year, and they will set up a special unit to monitor and secure the tram system.”
Mohamed Al Almaoui, the chief traffic officer in Casablanca, said the wilaya was engaged in an on-going operation aimed at ensuring the Highway Code is respected in order to improve traffic movements.
“The timing of this campaign is not coincidental; it’s all part of the wilaya’s traffic plan in advance of the tram coming into service next December,” he said.
A great deal of work is also being put in by the Casablanca City Council. Its chairman, Mohamed Sajid, said that in the run-up to the tram’s opening, the authority has been involved in street work, such as widening carriageways, installing lighting and improving pavements.
The urban motorway (20.5km in length) has had its lanes trebled, two big tunnels have been built, and the Sidi Maarouf junction has been improved with a tunnel and viaduct.
To ensure the smooth running of the trams, an intelligent traffic light system will be introduced. The system will be capable of detecting approaching trams and changing the traffic lights so that they can have a clear run.
As they wait for the trams to start running, locals continually voice their hopes that this new addition to the public transport system will provide an effective solution to the problem of getting around in Casablanca.
“To tell you the truth, I can’t wait for it to come into service, because every day I suffer because of the buses, which are always full and never come on time,” said Hamid Al Attar, a carpenter.
His colleague Yahia had a similar view on public transportation in Casablanca: “Of course I can’t wait for the tram to come, but as long as the fares aren’t too high.”
The first running tests of the Casablanca tram system, over a distance of 30km, are planned for October 15th. The cost of fares will be decided by November. The platforms and tracks are nearly complete.