Founded as part of the inter-governmental agreement for the high-speed project signed between France and Morocco in 2007, Institut de Formation Ferroviaire (IFF) is a 50:50 joint venture between Moroccan National Railways (ONCF) and French National Railways (SNCF). Initially agreed in April 2011, and formally founded in April 2013, the company opened the doors of its Rabat headquarters, located close to Rabat-Agdal station, on March 30 2015.

ONCFIFF is responsible for equipping both ONCF and SNCF supervisors with the skills required to operate the modern railway. Instruction is delivered in 75 separate courses with subjects including passenger services, infrastructure maintenance, project management and driver training.

SNCF is also providing dedicated training to ONCF trainees who will work on the new high-speed line. This includes three to four months of initial training in France in “deep dive” sessions where they are able to learn directly from SNCF teams about the specifics of high-speed operation.

Since work began at IFF, approximately 60% of instruction has come from ONCF employees, with 25% from SNCF, and the remainder from external sources. Approximately 200 trainees from both ONCF and SNCF are now attending IFF sessions every week as activities have steadily increased: a total of 16,950 training days were offered in 2015, with approximately 11,000 for ONCF and 6000 for SNCF, rising to 20,610 in 2016 (12,000 ONCF and 8000 SNCF). The objective is to provide 30,000 training days at IFF in 2017 - 20,000 for ONCF and 10,000 for SNCF employees.

As well as high-level instruction, attendees also benefit from access to the latest training tools and technologies at the Rabat facility. Covering 3000m2, there are 18 training rooms, three of which are equipped with virtual-reality software and e-Learning modules, while five are equipped with an interactive digital whiteboard. There are a further six rooms for practical exercises as well as a driving simulator, which replicates the operation of three ONCF vehicle types: the future high-speed train, E1400 locomotive, and double-deck EMU.

Preparation work for the launch of IFF’s activities at its Rabat headquarters, including development of the curriculum, took place between 2013 and 2015. Mr Charles Cressan, IFF’s director general, says officials from both ONCF and SNCF met regularly during this period, working together to identify problems and finding solutions to specific issues.

He points out that throughout this process there was a particular focus on bridging the cultural gap between the Moroccan and French sides of the project to offer the maximum benefit to participants.

“For the SNCF trainers, we felt that it was important to understand and focus on the intercultural aspects of their delivery because there are fundamental differences between French and Moroccan culture,” Cressan says. “By understanding the importance of support of family and religion, they can understand the obstacles people face, and deliver training that is suited to their needs.”


It appears that IFF has been successful in meeting these objectives. Surveys of participants from sessions that took place in 2015 and 2016 reveal a 95% satisfaction rate. Cressan adds that these results are backed up by the observations of 20 SNCF and ONCF experts who attend sessions to monitor the quality of instruction taking place. He says these individuals also provide a direct link between the business needs of the two companies in order to identify future requirements for the content of specific courses.

In the long-term, IFF has ambitions to expand its scope to other African countries as they develop new railway infrastructure. Already 20 interns from Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Gabon have participated in training sessions in Rabat, and Cressan is hopeful that this element of its service will grow.

“IFF’s objective is to become a role model for railway training in Africa,” Cressan says. “We aim to offer excellent and innovative training methods while linking people with experts in the field who will bring their knowledge to the table.”


DB Rail Academy targets $US 7.4bn global training market

GERMAN Rail (DB) subsidiary DB Engineering and Consulting officially launched DB Rail Academy on April 4, a new for-profit training and education enterprise, which aims to share DB’s knowledge, skills and ability to plan, construct and operate railways with clients around the world.

The new enterprise is aiming to build on DB Engineering and Consulting’s presence in 18 international markets. Specifically, it is looking to expand the reach of these facilities to offer sustainable and long-term training services, and tap into increasing demand for high-quality training solutions. DB says it is particularly focusing on immature markets like the Middle East, but is open to opportunities around the world in a railway training market that is worth an estimated $US 7.4bn.

DB Rail Academy will offer a modular programme which defines and develops training standards relevant to DB’s experience, but are also adaptable to local needs. These are executed through four production models which cover vocational, professional, executive and academic education, and are certified and accredited by both DB and external institutions.

  • Training centre: the backbone of the DB Rail Academy model. It will offer training programmes to support new staff entering the market. This includes basic and vocational training in areas ranging from infrastructure to operations to offer a general understanding of the railway system and business. It also encompasses initial driver training.
  • Rail Institute: more complex programmes aimed at honing the skills and knowledge of experts and specialists.
  • Executive Academy: offering leadership, management, and managerial-effectiveness programmes as well as dialogue forums and executive networking opportunities for the company’s managers and executives, and
  • Academic degree or certification: through partnerships with German and local universities, DB Rail Academy will offer a modular programme which defines and develops training standards that are adaptable to local needs and executed worldwide through a range of production models.

DB Rail Academy’s launch customer is Dubai’s Road Transport Authority (RTA). Here it is set to offer qualification programmes for engineers, middle management training programmes, and the executive academy.

Mr Heiko Scholz, director global of DB Rail Academy, says work on the initial course with RTA began in March, and he expects that 10 further courses will be offered by the end of the year. “Around 15-20 people are on each course, so we expect to train 150-200 people this year,” he says

Currently DB trainers fly into the UAE as required but as demand increases, Scholz expects some to be permanently based in the UAE. He said that a decision is expected soon on whether RTA will expand the scope of its cooperation with DB to a training academy for rail as well as road, taxi, bus and water taxi employees, a development which he describes as “unique” for the transport industry.

In addition, DB Rail Academy is working with Etihad Rail DB in Abu Dhabi as part of the agreement for the joint venture operating the freight line between Shah, Habshan and Ruwais. Scholz adds that DB expects further opportunities in Iran and the United States while talks are proceeding in Saudi Arabia. The company will also offer courses in project management for rail infrastructure from its existing branch offices in China and Israel.