The first elevated metro line in the entire Maghreb is coming to Casablanca. Construction on the sky train will begin in January 2014 and is scheduled for completion in late 2016, Casablanca Mayor Mohamed Sajid announced on June 6th.
The route will link Sidi Moumen and Hay Moulay Rachid to the downtown area, and go up to the Bourgogne neighbourhood.
The cost of the 15-18 kilometre suspended metro is 9 billion dirhams, to be partially financed by the French Development Agency (AFD). The tracks will be built on concrete arches, allowing commuters to avoid cross-town traffic.
"The city is making progress, and its infrastructure and transportation network are improving," local resident Khalid Kefili told Magharebia. "Casablanca is certainly not as it was 20 years ago. We like the idea of linking shantytowns to modern neighbourhoods," he said.
"It will be good to have a tramway and metro," Hay Mohammadi resident Salaheddine agreed. "The town has turned into a place for chaos and noise."
The congestion problem did not end when the 31-kilometre Casablanca tramway line opened last December. It can only accommodate 250,000 passengers each day. The proposed metro, however, will be able to carry up to 400,000 passengers daily, La Vie Éco reported.
The plan took shape last year, when Casablanca Mayor Mohamed Sajid, Casa Transport chief Youssef Draiss and other officials visited South America to see a suspended metro first-hand. Casablanca and Santiago, Chile are similar in terms of infrastructure, architecture and population density.
The officials were convinced that a sky train would work for Casablanca. The technical studies are ready, the mayor said. The only thing missing now is financing, Sajid added.
But Abdul Wafi al-Harraq, head of the local associations' council and one of the most vocal opponents of Mayor Sajid's policies, said a new metro was "not a priority for the residents of Casablanca".
"I think that the tramway is enough to solve the transportation problem," he said, adding that the city council should instead spend money on providing decent housing.
"The council must pay attention to the city's poor, precarious infrastructure," al-Harraq told Magharebia.
Shantytowns still suffer from lack of water, electricity and sewerage, he noted.
"City residents don't look for luxury in transportation, but for the minimum requirements for decent living," al-Harraq said.