“Rail transport in Tunisia will be significantly developed by 2030, part of government’s plan to reinforce this transport mode and to provide increased access to green mobility. We want to develop railways and the industry and to rely on it as a strategic sector. Under our plans, we intend to modernise and develop the rail infrastructure and to modernise the rolling stock, including the procurement of new vehicles,” Rabie Majidi, Tunisia’s Minister of Transport said at the Middle East Rail, held in Abu Dhabi on 15 – 16 May.
Tunisia intends to implement 47 infrastructure projects until 2030, with investments expected to reach 63 billion Tunisian dinars (USD 20 billion). Rail transport in Tunisia will be a strategic sector and the investment value is estimated at 36 billion Tunisian dinars (USD 11.7 billion).
Country’s 2,200 km railway network is owned and operated by Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Tunisiens (SNCFT) including the regional and suburban rail lines. In March, the Minister of Transport inaugurated the first new electric rail line (Line E) in Tunis metropolitan area known as Tunis Rapid Rail Network (RFR). The 6 km rail line provides transport services in the capital’s south-western districts and will initially link the centre of Tunis to Sidi Hassine Séjoumi, from Barcelone station to Bougatfa station. The project included the construction of a 280-metre long tunnel (Tunnel de Saida Manoubia), a maintenance facility at Sidi Fathallah and a power supply station at Gobaa.
Line E would be extended to 18.4 km with 13 stations connecting Tunis, Ezzouhour, Zahrouni and Séjoumi. The new suburban railway line has been supported by the World Bank, the European Investment Bank (EIB), German banking institution KFW and the French Development Agency (AFD). From 2007 to 2023, SYSTRA led the project management consortium with Studi, under the supervision of the SNCFT. A consortium of Colas Rail, Siemens and Tunisian company Somatra-Get was awarded a EUR 145 million contract to construct two lines in Tunis – the Line E and Line D – totalling 20 km. Colas Rail delivered track, catenary networks, power supply, remote surveillance and data collecting system, depot equipment and system integration, while Siemens has equipped the line with ETCS L1 and installed centralised control station equipment. In 2018 SNCFT and Hyundai Rotem signed a 416 million Tunisian dinars (USD 135.6 million, in current prices) contract for the supply of 28 four-car trains. On the new line, each train runs at a speed of 35 km/h at 7-minute intervals and has a capacity of 2,408 passengers per train.
The authorities plan to develop the entire rail infrastructure in the Tunis area and to provide other cities rail connections to the capital. “We want to build a network with five lines with a length of more than 70 km designed to provide connections from north to south and from east to west. We are working to start studies for the connections with the northern districts of the capital. Besides these new rail links, we also plan to expand the rail network to the neighboring countries to ensure rapid rail freight transport services and increased connection in the region,” Rabie Majidi explained.
During the conference in Abu Dhabi, Tunisia’s Minister of transport and the Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Rail, Shadi Malak, discussed on the possibilities to for transport development and rail expansion in the Middle East and North Africa region and to explore new opportunities. The representative of Etihad Rail has expressed that the UAE is ready to strengthen cooperation and partnership with Tunisia and in the field of rail transport.
To implement the projects, the Tunisian authorities are looking for investors as not all projects can be state funded. “The strategic vision for railways also covers restructuring plans and identification of the best options to realise the projects including through public-private partnerships. In this matter, we will develop the legislation according to international standards,” the Minister of Transport said.
In December 2021, the European Investment Bank (EIB) announced a EUR 45 million financing for the public transport authority Transtu to acquire new trains and equipment for the 19 km Tunis – Goulette – Marsa (TGM) light rail line.