An Underwater Train Could Link Europe and Africa by 2030

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Imagine being able to board a train from Spain to Morocco, and travel efficientlyβ€”and sustainablyβ€”between Europe and Africa in under six hours. Thanks to a historic rail tunnel project currently being considered by the two countries’ transportation ministries, the first-ever rail link between the two continents could become a reality in just a few years.

Undersea tunnels connecting Southern Europe to Northern Africa were first proposed in 1979, but the project has taken on new urgency due to the 2030 World Cup, which is set to take place across Portugal, Spain, and Morocco.

As such, the Moroccan National Company for Strait Studies (SNED) announced last week that it was launching initial research into the feasibility of the project, including construction costs and logistics, according to a report from The Telegraph.

The rail tunnel would streamline transportation between Spain and Morocco, making it possible to hop on a train in Madrid and arrive in Casablanca in an estimated five and a half hours. It currently takes more than 12 hours to get between the 2 cities by car and ferry, while flights are about 2 hours long.

There’s also a possibility for the new rail project to connect to existing train routes in both countries, so passengers would have the option to continue their travel on either continent beyond the two cities.

Over the last year, Spain and Morocco have engaged in high-level talks about reviving the project, with transport ministers from both countries holding multiple meetings since spring 2023. β€œWe are therefore beginning a new stage in the relaunch of the Fixed Link Project through the Strait of Gibraltar, which we began in 1981,” Raquel SΓ‘nchez, Spain’s Minister of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda said in a release after a meeting in April 2023. Last year, Spain allocated 2.3 million euros to launch its own feasibility studies into the tunnel project.

The proposed train would connect the city of Punta Paloma, Spain, to Malabata, Morocco, near Tangier with an underwater tunnnel, according to The Spanish Society for Fixed Communication Studies across the Strait of Gibraltar (SECEGSA). The total rail line between the two stations would be 26 miles long, with about 17 miles of track running through the undersea tunnel. At its lowest depth, the tunnel would sit about 1,550 feet below sea level, the current plans on SECEGSA’s site show.

If built, the train line would be the first direct rail link between Africa and Europe and could carry up to 12.8 million passengers between the continents each year, per SECEGSA projections first
reported in The Telegraph.

The total cost of the project remains unknown, but reported estimates are clocking in at about $7.5 billion.

It’s not the first time that Spain and Morocco have investigated whether an undersea tunnel system would be doable. The two countries also launched feasibility studies back in 1981, but ultimately, the project lost momentum and the rail lines were never completed.

Although the train line would ideally be operational by 2030, there is no set deadline for when the exploratory phase might end or when the project may be greenlit by officials.

But with another strategic meeting between the two nations reportedly scheduled for June, the World Cup could be enough of an incentive to jump-start construction and finally bring the historic transportation feat to fruition. Source: Conde Nast Traveler

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