The award is subject to the approval of the Japan Bank for International Co-operation, which in May 2002 extended a Y13,171 million ($110 million) loan to state railway company Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Tunisiens (SNCFT) to cover the cost of the metropolitan railway programme. SNCFT has recently issued a tender for two passenger trains for the Tunis-Sousse route (Tenders, MEED 1:1:03).

The programme is being undertaken in response to Tunisia’s rapid urbanisation and population growth, which is leading to increased pollution and traffic congestion. The problem is particularly evident in the capital where the number of people living in the catchment area of the southern train line is expected to rise by 90,000 in the next five years to 300,000 in 2006.

The government has said it intends to invest some TD 692 million ($511 million) in the electrification of railway lines over the course of the 2000-2006 Tenth Development Plan.