Major construction work on the $2.5bn first phase of Morocco’s high speed rail network will begin at the end of 2011, according to a source closely involved with the project.

Tenders for the initial civil works, which involves reinforcing the ground where the track will be laid, are due to be issued soon. Work is scheduled to begin in June. Tenders for the major construction work will follow in 2011.

Morocco’s Office National des Chemins de Fer received several bids for the construction of a workshop to be used for maintenance facilities, which is expected to be awarded before June, according to the source.

The first phase of the network involves building a 180-kilometre high-speed rail line along the country’s Atlantic coast between the cities of Tangier and Kenitra.

A second phase will involve building a high-speed track from Kenitra to Casablanca, a further 130km along the coast.

There is already a railway line from Tangier to Casablanca, but it is not high speed.

Trains will be able to reach speeds of about 320 kilometres an hour on the new line. The first services should be running by the end of 2015.

Rabat plans to build a high-speed network connecting all the major cities in the country by 2030.

The state is providing financing of MD4.8bn ($585m) for the project, with a further $122m coming from the Hassan II Fund for Economic & Social Development, $231m from France and other European donors, and $1.5bn worth of loans (MEED 7:2:10).