THE long-anticipated dream of an underwater train connecting Spain with Morocco could be that much closer.
New research funded by Spain and Morocco has identified several proposed routes for the project, including Madrid to Casablanca in just five-and-a-half hours.
It comes after both countries relaunched the Gibraltar Strait Tunnel Project in April this year, agreeing to ramp up studies into the technology required for such a feat.
According to Moroccan state media outlet SNRTNews, experts are looking at several routes that would pass through Seville and the coastal cities of Algeciras and Tarifa.
“The high-speed rail line existing in both Morocco and Spain is expected to significantly reduce travel time compared to regular trains,” the news outlet said.
Morocco opened its first high-speed rail line in 2018, connecting its northern hub Tangier with its capital Rabat and tourism mecca Casablanca.
The most likely connection would be between Morocco’s Tangier and Tarifa or Algeciras on Spain’s southern coast – just a few kilometres from the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar.
Algeciras is already served by a high-speed route to Malaga, meaning that under the proposals, one would be able to catch a high-speed train from the Costa del Sol to Casablanca.
Earlier this year, Spain’s transport minister Raquel Sanchez vowed the two countries would give much more support to the project, which has been promised on-and-off since 1979.
Sanchez described it as ‘strategic’ not only for Spain and Morocco but also wider Europe and Africa.
In a meeting with Moroccan minister Nizar Baraka, she added: “We are beginning a new stage in the revival of the fixed link project across the Strait of Gibraltar, which we launched in 1981, hand in hand.”
It comes amid a warming of diplomatic relations between the two countries, aided by the recent announcement that they will co-host the 2030 football World Cup alongside Portugal.
According to SNRTNews, studies on the undersea tunnel project are progressing fast, with experts now deciding on the ‘appropriate technology’ for construction.
The idea was first mooted in 1979, when King Hassan II of Morocco and then-King Juan Carlos I of Spain agreed to develop the ambitious project.