Ansaldobreda, a Finmeccanicacompany, said that the contract included an option to sell a further six of the electric, 160-kilometre-an-hour trains. If the option is exercised, the value of the contract will rise to Eur 190 million ($224 million).

The trains will be used on the Casablanca, Rabat and Fes lines and form part of a $500 million, three-year investment programme that is intended to improve services and enlarge the network prior to the liberalisation of ONCF, which would open the national rail network to private investment by 2010. It is envisaged that the organisation, which was established in 1963, will be split into three separate companies.

In 2002, ONCF carried 15 million passengers and 30 million tonnes of freight. ONCF operates 1,900 kilometres of track. It recorded $200 million in revenue for the year.

Ansaldobreda is also bidding for a contract to supply 30 carriages to Tunisia’s Societe du Metro Leger de Tunis (SMLT) for the capital’s urban transit network.

The award, due to be announced at the end of the year, is also being contested by Bombardier Transportationof Canada, Alstomof France, Germany’s Siemens Transportation Systems and Construcciones y Auxilliar Ferrocarriles (CAF)of Spain (MEED 9:5:03).