Plans for a railway network that will connect Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia, with the surrounding suburbs has taken a step forward with the award of contracts covering the construction of the first two lines.

A consortium led by French company Colas Rail, including German firm Siemens and Tunisian company Somatra-Get, won the contract to build lines D and E, covering a total distance of 20 kilometres.The client on the project is Réseau Ferroviaire Rapide.

The total contract value is €145m, with €86m allocated to Colas Rail. The French company will be in charge of track, catenary networks, power supply, remote surveillance and data collection system, depot equipment and system integration. The project is being funded by the Tunisian government and a group of international development banks including the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Agence Francaise du Developpement (AFD) and German bank KFW. Construction of the lines is due to begin in mid-2014 and be completed 46 months later.

In total, there are five lines planned. Line D will connect Tunis to Mannouba and Gobaa to Mnihla. Line E will connects Tunis to Ezzouhour and Zahrouni. The rail project is intended to help reduce traffic congestion in the town centre.

The project began in July 2007 and in 2008 French firm Alstom won a contract for the electrification of the line that connects Tunis to the town of Borj Cerdria. This existing line will be line A of the five-line network.

The original masterplan for the scheme plans for the trains to run at maximum speeds of 120km/h. The trains will be able to carry 2,500 passengers. There will be three main stations in the town centre and 16 stations in the surrounding suburbs.