French firm Systra has won the contract to carry out the preliminary design work for an elevated metro in Casablanca.

Consultants submitted bids to the city’s public transport authority, Casa Transport, on 16 July.

Construction of the metro is due to start in January 2014 and will be completed by the end of 2016. It is expected to be 15-18 kilometres long.

The train will connect Hay Moulay Rachid to the downtown area of Casablanca and to the Bourgogne quarter of the city. It will have the capacity to carry up to 400,000 passengers a day, according to local press reports.

The project is to be partially funded by the French Development Agency.

The elevated metro is part of efforts by Casablanca’s authorities to upgrade its public transport facilities. In an effort to combat traffic congestion, the city opened its first tram line in December last year.

The line covers 31km and has 48 stops. Systra drew up the preliminary designs for the tram, while fellow French firm Alstom provided the trams. The line is currently operated by a consortium headed by RATP-Dev, the foreign arm of French public transport company RATP Group.

The tram has proved popular and has transported a daily average of 60,000 passengers within the first seven months of operation. However, its capacity is limited to 250,000 passengers a day, which is far lower than the capacity promised by the elevated metro.

To further tackle congestion, Casa Transport has also issued a tender for a feasibility study for a rapid bus system (BRT). Consultants must submit bids on 3 September.

BRT schemes are often developed as a cheaper alternative to metro systems, while aiming to deliver the same level of speed and connectivity.

Other cities in Morocco are also improving their public transport facilities, with Rabat planning to extend its current 19.5km tram network that connects the capital city to Sale. The scheme is at the early design phase.