Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Africa and Europe join together via Strait of Gibraltar

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Friday, September 6th 2013 à 16:16 | Read 9187 times

As well as joining the two kingdoms of Spain and Morocco, the tunnel through the Strait of Gibraltar will connect Europe to Africa and enable closer cooperation between the two continents.

The project provides for three tunnels, including a central service gallery (SECEGSA plan)
The project provides for three tunnels, including a central service gallery (SECEGSA plan)
The plan to build a rail tunnel between Morocco and Spain, which keeps rearing its ugly head but is yet to be put into action, resurfaced following a report presented on 5 July 2013 in Geneva during a session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The report by the Secretary-General of the UN on the activities carried out between 2006 and 2013 and the programme proposed for the 2013-2015 period confirms the need to build the tunnel to improve regional integration.
The three-gallery tunnel (two one-way rail lines and a service/safety gallery) would stretch 37.7 km from Punta Paloma (10 km outside Tarifa) to Malabata (near to Tangier), of which 27.7 km would be under the sea. The maximum depth would be 300 metres. This latter figure dictated that this route would be favoured over the shorter one between Cap Cirès and Punta Canales (14 km shore to shore), where depths reach 900 metres.
The project to join Africa and Europe, sometimes known as Afrotunnel, has been a topic for discussion since it was first planned by Frenchman Laurent De Villedemil in 1869. All possible solutions were discussed, including a 14 km bridge, the combination of tunnels and a man-made island, and a floating tunnel. In 1996, the two countries settled on a rail-only tunnel similar to the one under the English Channel.

A €4bn-5bn project

Location of the tunnel terminals (SECEGSA map)
Location of the tunnel terminals (SECEGSA map)
Since the signing of a cooperation agreement between Hassan II and Juan Carlos I 35 years ago, the project has been centred around a combined committee comprising Société Nationale d'Études du Détroit de Gibraltar (SNED) in Morocco and Sociedad española de estudios para la comunicación fija a través del Estrecho de Gibraltar S.A (SECEGSA) in Spain. Both are state-owned companies.

The annual capacity of the first gallery is predicted to be 11.2 million rail passengers, 4.7 million car passengers, 1.6 million cars and 460,000 heavy goods vehicles. The second rail gallery would be built as traffic increases, reaching a capacity of 50 million passengers and 6 million vehicles.  Work will begin with the excavation of the narrower exploratory gallery.
The cost of the project, which was in January 2005 estimated at between €4bn and €5bn for the initial phase (one rail tunnel and a service gallery), remains a problem. The two state-owned companies responsible for the project say that only the construction of the exploratory gallery (destined to become the service tunnel) will be funded using public money. The rest of the work will be financed privately through a 40-year BOT concession.

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