THE Moroccan government has allocated Dirham 7.72bn ($US 852m) to renew the country’s rail network and rolling stock between 2022 and 2024.

The funding, outlined in a report on Public Establishments and Enterprises (EEP) as part of the 2022 finance bill, includes Dirham 2.9bn in 2022, Dirham 2.22bn in 2023 and Dirham 2.6bn in 2024. The report says the government invested Dirham 50bn in rail infrastructure between 2010 and 2020.

The report also outlines the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Moroccan National Railways (ONCF), with passenger numbers dropping by 98% between March and May 2020. A contingency plan has been implemented to preserve ONCF’s financial stability and ensure operation can continue.

ONCF carried 21.1 million passengers in 2020, down 45% compared with 2019, and expects to carry 30 million passengers in 2021. The operator also carried 8.1 million tonnes of general freight as well as 16.4 million tonnes of phosphate in 2020, with this expected to increase to 8.4 million tonnes of freight in 2021, although phosphate is expected to decrease to 15 million tonnes.

Turnover in 2020 was Dirham 2.81bn, down 5% compared with 2019, with a loss of Dirham 1.1bn, down from a loss of Dirham 2bn in 2019. ONCF recorded Dirhams 1.6bn in turnover in the first six months of 2021 and expects to record Dirham 3.3bn in turnover by the end of the year. Dirham 687m was invested in the first six months of the year, up 25%, with this expected to reach Dirham 2.7bn by the end of the year.

ONCF and the government are also in discussions to implement an agreement signed on July 25 2019 to restructure the railway by separating the commercial operation from the management and development of the infrastructure.