Spain’s government has reawakened the conversation on a future rail link between Africa and Europe by pledging to invest €2.3m in a feasibility study into the Gibraltar Straight fixed link.
The money will be allocated from Spain’s share of the European Union’s Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, a fund centred on post-Covid recovery in the bloc.
The idea, which has been discussed in industry circles since the 1970s, is to connect Spain and Morocco via an underwater rail tunnel. The project was formalised in the 1980s but suffered many setbacks and was officially dropped in 2009 in the wake of the global financial crash.
However, strong signals from governments on both sides of the Gibraltar Straight in 2023 have reignited the discussion.
In April, at the first meeting between Spanish and Moroccan government ministers in 14 years, Spain’s Transport Minister Raquel Sánchez Jiménez promised to inject “impetus”, saying: “We are going to give impetus to the studies of a project of maximum geostrategic importance for our countries.”
Morocco inaugurated its first high-speed rail line in 2018, connecting its northern hub Tangier with its capital Rabat and tourism hotspot Casablanca.
The most likely crossing point for the fixed link would be between Tangier and Tarifa or Algeciras on Spain’s southern coast. Algeciras is already served by a high-speed capable line to Malaga and then on to the national rail network.
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It is approximately 13km from Tarifa to the Moroccan coast, which is significantly shorter than the Channel crossing between Calais and Dover. The Channel Tunnel itself is 50km in length and a similar extension inland would likely be needed for any future Gibraltar Straight fixed link.