Tunisia develops the National Transport Master Plan for 2040

The next decade is crucial for major economic development projects in Tunisia, particularly in the field of transport. To some extent, the political and economic instability of the country led to some complications in the implementation of transport sector development plan because of the foreign investments’ decline. In the transport field, a sector already in difficulty, these complications caused projects delays and even suspensions.

With the aging of transport systems and infrastructures in Greater Tunis, a sharp deterioration in public transport services has been observed for several years in the capital of Tunisia. Faced with this situation, ambitious projects have emerged, responding to issues such as improving the quality of service in the center and expanding public transport services in suburban areas.
The urban public transport sector suffered deeply due to this degradation: in 2015 for instance the Greater Tunis public bus network had only 220 operational units for about the same number of lines. In February 2016, a White Paper describing the situation was proposed by the World Bank to the Ministry of Transport of Tunisia. The White Paper, which was finalized in 2016, highlights the impact of the cumulative delays of the various projects on the deterioration of transport systems. These delays relate mainly to major infrastructure projects, equipment renewals and institutional reforms.
2016 aimed to mark a turning point in this trend: the launch of a new five-year development plan with the scope of attracting new investors. At the same time, the Ministry of Transport of Tunisia intends to renew its strategic policy in the long term through the preparation of the National Transport Master Plan for 2040.
It is expected to last eighteen months and will be completed in the first half of 2018 through the delivery of the Master Plan to the Ministry. This plan should enable the Tunisian authorities to have a scheme for investment and maintenance of transport across the country, as well as institutional and regulatory measures. Such a plan is meant to be a vision document for all the technical and financial partners who will thus have a range of strategic actions to follow.
2016 also marked the start of another Five-Year Development Plan for 2020. In terms of urban transport, this five-year plan displays a strategic vision oriented towards the rehabilitation and development of public transport. Various areas such as the restructuring of public enterprises, the improvement of quality of service and safety, and the development of public-private partnerships projects or the integration of new technologies to adopt intelligent transport are developed in this respect.
The plan for urban infrastructure and transport development includes important infrastructure projects centred on Tunis and Sfax ( the second city in Tunisia). The capital, Tunis, concentrates the vast majority of these investments with the continuity of its ambitious project of the Réseau Ferré Rapide (a suburban network currently under construction) requiring about 1.8 billion dinars (USD 800 million), as well as the rehabilitation and extension of the light rail network.
Beside Tunis, the only city with an urban rail network in Tunisia, the city of Sfax announced it is also launching its own public transport project consisting of two light rail lines.
The Sfax urban rail transport project and the second phase of the Tunis Rapid Rail Network (Réseau Ferré Rapide, RFR) are important issues on the Transport Ministry’s agenda.
The Ministry also acknowledged that the rolling stock operating on the Tunis light rail network is quite obsolete and needs almost a total replacement.
Thus, there are plans, in the near future, for rolling stock acquisition. In fact, this is an important priority on the current Five-Year Development Plan.

Sfax city to have a light rail network in 2021

The implementation of the light rail project in the city of Sfax, Tunisia, will begin in 2019 and operation of the first stretch is planned for 2021, Transport Minister, Anis Ghedira, announced during a meeting on „means and mechanisms for the success of the project Light metro in Sfax”.
The Minister said that a consultancy company will be appointed to carry out in-depth studies to verify the project’s orientations, knowing that its implementation was decided in accordance with the governmental decree in 2015 but remained blocked.
According to the Transport Minister, the European Investment Bank (EIB), which financed the feasibility study of the project, with an envelope of EUR 600 thousand, was interested in this project, the overall cost of which is estimated at 2.8 billion dinars (EUR 1.4 billion).
„After completion of the other three sections of the project, by 2030, the network will cover a distance of 70 km, divided between railway lines and a route for high-quality buses,” Rachid Ezzaier, CEO of Rachid Ezzaier, the installation of the first section of the light rail line route in Tunis, added.
For his part, Pierre Marx, project leader and representative of Egis Rail, underlined the need to start work on the project as soon as possible.
Started in 2007, the Tunis Rapid Rail Network (Réseau Ferré Rapide) aims to connect the suburbs of Greater Tunis with its centre. It will be operated by the National Company of the Tunisia Railways –SNCFT and will be added to the existing urban network operated by the Tunis Transport Company (Transtu). In parallel with this major project, Transtu has started a modernization of its network in terms of infrastructure and of the ticketing system.
The authorities will offer an integrated transport network as the two rail systems, Tunis Rapid Rail Network and the rail network of Transtu will be interoperable. The two networks Transtu and RFR want to acquire modern ticketing systems, but mostly integrated with each other. On the other hand, the RFR network is still under construction and will have to have its own ticketing system. This system has not yet been selected, and a call for tender is about to be launched.
The French Development Agency (AFD) confirms its role as Tunisia’s benchmark partner in the urban mobility sector, which is one of the key areas for the sustainable development of territories and cities.
AFD supports the mobility development in Tunisia in the framework of a Technical Expertise and Exchange Fund (Fexte), which allows the implementation of a technical cooperation program for the Ministry of Transport. AFD’s technical cooperation initiatives are also compliant with the Agency’s important funding for urban transport investment in Tunisia.
AFD thus accompanies three of the most important current transport projects in Tunisia that contribute significantly to the development and structuring of the Grand Tunis and at the same time to the improvement of the living conditions for the citizens.
AFD supported the modernization programme of the light rail network, with EUR 40 million, carried out by Transtu. This programme, which ended, enabled the extension of the light rail network and the rehabilitation of the Tunis-la Goulette-la Marsa (TGM) line.
More than that, a joint venture with a group of European donors (EIB, KfW, European Union), AFD has set up a EUR 50 million loan for the first phase of the Grand-Tunis Rapid Rail Network (RFR).
It will support by financing EUR 75 million the project for the development of the Central Boucle of the Tunis metro and an interchange hub at Barcelona Square, which is expected to be launched in 2017.

by Elena Ilie

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