Algeria plans to launch 13 new rail projects before the end of the year worth an estimated $4.5bn. The projects will add 643 kilometres of new track and modernise a further 225km, according to a statement by the Transport Ministry in early November.

Nine new lines are planned, including six interurban lines and three suburban lines. The new interurban lines are: Laghouat-Djelfa (110km); Djelfa-Boughezoul (140km); Boughezoul-Ksar el-Boukhari (40km); Touggourt-Hassi Messaoud (154km); Mecheria-El Bayadh (130km); and Hassi Mefsoukh-Mostaganem (56km).

The new suburban lines are: a 7km line in Arzew in the northwest; a 3km line in Beni Saf, also in the northwest; and a 3km line linking Algiers international airport and the suburb of Bab Ezzouar.

Three lines will be modernised: Es Senia-Ain Temouchent (53km); Constantine-Ramdane Djamel (15km); and a 157km line in the east of the country used by the mining industry. Rehabilitation work will also be carried out on associated rail facilities in the suburbs of the capital Algiers, according to the Transport Ministry.

Algeria is carrying out one of the most ambitious rail development programmes in the Middle East. The government’s 2010-14 development programme involves projected investment of $30bn of state funds with the aim of increasing the coverage of the national rail network to 10,500km from 3,500km.

The programme is designed to promote economic development in the regions and to connect the populous northern coastal region with agricultural and industrial resources in the south.

The development of the mainline network is being led by the Agence Nationale d’Etudes & de Suivi de la Realisation des Investissements Ferroviaires (Anesrif). The government is also creating local urban transport authorities, known as Etablissements de Transport Urbain, in each province.