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Morocco tests Africa's first high-speed rail line as French FM visits

media French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian arrives for a press conference with his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita in Rabat AFP

Morocco is to stage 320-kilometre-per-hour tests on the African continent's first high-speed railway, due to come into operation duing the summer of 2018, the national railway network ONCF announced on Monday.

An earlier test at 275 kilometres per hour took place in the presence of French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who is in the country to monitor progress on the project, which is parly financed by a French loan.

"At 270-275 kilometres per hour, this is already the fastest train on the African continent," Le Drian commented during a ceremony to mark the signing of a loan to the ONCF by the French Development Agency.

France is providing 50 percent of the two-billion-euro cost, which is 15 percent higher than initial estimates published in 2007.

The rolling stock will be provided by France's Alstom engineering company.

The 350-kilometre link between Casablanca and Tangiers via the capital Rabat will cut journey times between the north African country's economic hubs by almost two-thirds, to just over two hours.

Difficult terrain and high winds on parts of the route have made some major engineering works, including the construction of 12km of viaducts, necessary.

A "Stop TGV" campaign was launched against the project, arguing that it was not a priority for the country and would not pay its way.

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