Spain, Morocco to build undersea rail tunnel

19 December 2003
Rabat and Madrid have announced plans to construct a 38.7-kilometre rail tunnel link between the two countries, 27.7 kilometres of which will be under sea. The project envisages the construction of three tunnels - one service tunnel and two main rail runnels - under the Straits of Gibraltar between Punta Palomas, 40 kilometres west of Gibraltar and Punta Malabata near Tangiers. The route was chosen as the sea is just 300 metres deep at the crossing point.

The local Societe Nationale des Etudes du Detroit (SNED) and Spain's Sociedad Espanola de Estudios para la Comunicacion Fija a Traves del Estrecho de Gibralatar (SECEGSA) have been provided with a budget of Eur 27 million ($33 million) over three years to conduct seismic surveys and explore financing options for the project.

Once the two agencies have finalised their investigations in 2006, tenders will be issued for the contract to construct the smaller service tunnel.

Local and Spanish officials are due to meet the EU in mid-January to discuss financing to meet the projected $350 million construction cost of the service tunnel. It is understood that each of the three parties is looking to fund one third of the construction cost. Construction of the tunnel is expected to take six years.

The construction of the two main tunnels, and the two planned stations to serve them, will be on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis, the tenders for which will be issued in 2010. The whole project is expected to be completed by 2018 and cost an estimated $3,000 million.

The project, first considered in the 1970s, had previously envisaged a shorter 14-kilometre route between Punta Canales in Spain and Punta Malabata in Morocco. However the average sea depth of 900 metres was considered too deep for construction.

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