A consortium of French firms comprising Colas Rail, Colas Rail Maroc and Egis Rail has won the €136m ($177.3m) design and build contract for the high-speed train line between Tangier and Kenitra in Morocco.

The scope of work covers the construction of the 185-kilometre track, overhead wires and two work site facilities.

The work is expected to last for 42 months, with the line due to open during the first half of 2016.

The contract award is the second North African rail deal won by Colas Rail this year. The French firm was also awarded the contract for the construction of two railway lines in Tunisia linking the capital Tunis to the surrounding suburbs. Colas Rail was in a consortium that included German firm Siemens and Tunisian company Somatra-Get.

The design and build contract on the Moroccan high-speed rail projects follows the awarding of the contract for the design and supply of signalling and telecommunications equipment to French firms Ansaldo STS and Cofely Ineo.

Once complete, the high-speed line will reduce travel times between Morocco’s major cities. It will take just over two hours, rather than four hours 45 minutes, to travel between Tangier and Casablanca and just one hour 20 minutes rather than three hours 45 minutes to travel between Tangier and Rabat.

The high-speed line has attracted criticism from some who believe the cost of the project is too high and should not be a priority for Morocco’s government.

However, the national railway states the project will help boost the country’s economy by creating new jobs for the population.