Rail tunnel between Spain and Morocco

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https://www.newsweek.com/underwater-rail-tunnel-connect-europe-africa-1904671

They're talking about having it done by 2030 to help deal with traffic caused by the World Cup in Spain, Portugal, and Morocco. Not sure how long this idea has been floating around, but it seems to me that the engineering problems are huge -- The Strait of Gibraltar is over a thousand feet deep and is tectonically active. It might be possible, after all, Spain and Morocco seem to be capable of building large rail infrastructure projects that the United States can't do.
 
I like the chutzpah but any amount you care to wager says this proposal will not result in an actual tunnel, probably ever but certainly not by 2030. The cost and time estimates are too low considering the size, complexity, and durability necessary to recover the capital expenses. I do not doubt that traffic will be a problem at the 2030 FIFA World Cup, but realistically they're looking at building more ferries instead of finishing this behemoth.
 
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Add to that that most of Spain is 1,668 mm (5 ft 521⁄32 in), known as Iberian gauge., while Morocco is standard 1435 mm gauge.
not sure how close standard network is to algeciras
Spain's HSR network is all standard gauge and one would assume this addition (however unlikely) would be part of that.
 
Add to that that most of Spain is 1,668 mm (5 ft 521⁄32 in), known as Iberian gauge., while Morocco is standard 1435 mm gauge.
not sure how close standard network is to algeciras
Standard gauge doesn't come to Algeciras, but the gap to be bridged would be quite doable.



renfe-map.jpg

And here is the Moroccan system. The map is somewhat out of date as the initial high speed line is now operational.

International trains to Algeria are presently suspended due to a dispute between the two countries, but Morocco has repeatedly expressed the desire to reopen this route.

Morocco has border disputes with several other neighbors too, which would be an obstacle to further international corridors (even though such have been proposed).

That said, Morocco has extensive territorial disputes with Spain too, over the various Spanish exclaves, coastal islands and Spain's asserted fishing rights. That is apparently not preventing the two countries collaborating on the tunnel project though.

Morocco is undergoing quite a spectacular rail revival these years, with many routes being upgraded or double-tracked, and the high-speed network being developed.


Rail_network_in_Morocco.svg.png
 
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Standard gauge doesn't come to Algeciras, but the gap to be bridged would be quite doable.
That was my assumption. It would make no sense not to - especially with the recent improvements to the Moroccan services. Spain will have to compromise, like they did with France, if they want this to happen.
 
Add to that that most of Spain is 1,668 mm (5 ft 521⁄32 in), known as Iberian gauge., while Morocco is standard 1435 mm gauge.
not sure how close standard network is to Algeciras
I remember from my college days (in the 1970s) that Iberian gauge vs. standard gauge was an issue for international trains crossing the Pyrenees into France. I earned college credit for a month-long group trip to Spain in 1978, and I believe there was a delay at the French border while our train to Paris (and the group's flight home) switched gauges. (I think the train may have had wheels on each car which could be moved to fit either gauge's rails, but only in a yard, not on-the-fly in transit.)
 
https://www.newsweek.com/underwater-rail-tunnel-connect-europe-africa-1904671

Not sure how long this idea has been floating around, but it seems to me that the engineering problems are huge -- The Strait of Gibraltar is over a thousand feet deep and is tectonically active. It might be possible, after all, Spain and Morocco seem to be capable of building large rail infrastructure projects that the United States can't do.
Fortunately there is no fault, thrust or slip, under the Strait of Gibraltar. The two thrust faults around Gibraltar are both under land. The strait has a stable base. The two unstable fault areas under land are Betics Fault under Spain and Rif Fault under Morocco and both already have railways built across them.
 
I remember from my college days (in the 1970s) that Iberian gauge vs. standard gauge was an issue for international trains crossing the Pyrenees into France. I earned college credit for a month-long group trip to Spain in 1978, and I believe there was a delay at the French border while our train to Paris (and the group's flight home) switched gauges. (I think the train may have had wheels on each car which could be moved to fit either gauge's rails, but only in a yard, not on-the-fly in transit.)
There was the Talgo train, which could change gauge while moving (albeit at slow speed).

There were Talgo night trains from Madrid to Paris as well as from Barcelona to Paris, Zurich and Milan. Furthermore there was a day Talgo with TEE branding called "Catalan Talgo" from Barcelona to Geneva (later cut back to Montpellier). This was later joined by a second day train from Cartagena via Valencia and Barcelona to Montpellier, the "Talgo Mare Nostrum". These trains were all discontinued in the early 2010s (or in the case of the Mare Nostrum, cut back to become a national train). There are no longer any gauge changing international trains to or from Spain, but gauge changers are used on several national trains within Spain to permit trains to cross between the high speed and conventional networks.

There was also a night train formed of conventional cars (mostly SNCF Corails) that also ran between Paris and Madrid via Hendaye / Irun, the "Puerta del Sol". It was a slower but lower cost alternative to the somewhat pricey Talgo. This train also carried automobiles for many years. This train crossed the border at Hendaye / Irun and the cars would be jacked up and the trucks changed out. The dining car did not change gauge but was replaced by a different car of the respective railroad. Up until the early 1990s, RENFE's dining cars were a real marvel, being pre-war CIWL cars with all the intricate interior with fine art deco tracery.

AFAIK all other cross-border connections between France and Spain involved changing trains at the border. In some cases this meant turfing out entire trainloads of sleepy-eyed travelers at stupid o'clock and having them wait several hours for some connecting train - with the station cafeteria being the only beneficiary.

Freight between France and Spain crossed (and still crosses today) via both Hendaye / Irun on the Biscayan coast, and Port Bou / Cerbere on the Mediterranean coast, with the latter crossing being more important. Some freight is transshipped at the border whereas some freight cars also have trucks or wheelsets exchanged. These days there is also some standard gauge freight that uses the high speed line from the border to Barcelona at night. I think this is mostly new automobiles from the SEAT factory in Martorell near Barcelona. This factory is interesting in that it is served by all three gauges (Iberian broad gauge, standard gauge, and meter gauge for the FGC system)
 
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Thanks for all of the added details! Our group trip's train (in 1978) used the Hendaye/Irun crossing heading up to Paris. We had previously also made a day trip Algeciras-Tangier, via ferry both ways.
(One would think expanding ferry service between Spain and Morocco would be far more doable than an undersea tunnel through the Straits of Gibraltar, especially for something to get done by 2030!)
 
I watched the video, and was impressed with how nice the stations looked. The bilingual Arabic/French signage in the stations was also helpful, as I could guess at the French easily enough (never studied French, but umpteen years of Spanish in high school & college helped). Incredibly cheap ticket prices (as the content provider explained, priced to be accessible to the average Moroccan). If I ever went back to Spain, I'd be tempted to hop across the Straits to Tangier, and make a day trip to Casablanca while staying a couple days in Tangier.
 
Tim's description: "At 350km/h, China currently has the fastest operating train service on earth. Second place is a tie between the planet's other technology giants - Japan, Germany, France, and Morocco. Wait. Morocco? I went to Casablanca to find out more..."
Love the Tim Traveler. This guy knows how to produce quality lighthearted travel content for rail fans, history buffs, and curiosity seekers.

Standard gauge doesn't come to Algeciras, but the gap to be bridged would be quite doable.
Long term it makes sense to continue pursuing a tunnel option, assuming objective analysis can confirm the concept is structurally sound and likely to entice high speed passengers and high priority freight, but such a project also represents a unique combination of challenges that are sure to come with a cost premium.

 
Aside from World Cup traffic, is there really that much demand for travel between Spain and Morocco to make a tunnel worth it?
Tourists in Andalusia often make day trips to Tangier as part of their vacation (as my college group trip did, back in the day). On the other hand, illegal immigration and human trafficking (not just to Spain, but to other European countries via Spain) would become bigger problems if there were a tunnel connecting Spain and Morocco.
 
Aside from World Cup traffic, is there really that much demand for travel between Spain and Morocco to make a tunnel worth it?
Completing the tunnel in time for the World Cup seems optimistic to me. It would probably take years to just get the financing sorted. I would treat that part as propaganda.

In the longer term there are geopolitical arguments. Northern Africa will grow in importance economically, with a rising population and rising standards of living. On the other hand it is in a part of the world that has in the past been prone to dictatorships and extremism, factors that ultimately hold back development and are a powder keg for future conflict. One of the best weapons to safeguard against such tendencies is economic growth and the development of a middle class through trade and industry. Poor and poorly educated people tend to be open to support extreme and ill-thought out policies presented to them by angry men with beards, whereas people with something to lose tend to be more cautious of sudden change and will support continuity and the individual freedoms from which they themselves benefitted. That said, Morocco has historically resisted many of the more extreme waves that swept across that broader region, thanks in part to its internal stability and pragmatic government, making Morocco a more natural ally for Europe than almost any other country in Africa. A tunnel would not be a standalone project but be embedded in broader policies of opening up and encouraging mutual trade and political cooperation. These programs would bring Morocco more into the European economic sphere, strengthening the moderate forces already at work within Morocco and encourage deeper alignment with European and Western values, economically and politically.

Morocco has the potential to be so much more than a tourist destination.
 
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Not sure how long this idea has been floating around, but it seems to me that the engineering problems are huge
I guess its a bit like the Channel Tunnel between Britain and France. The idea is very old and it took lots of false starts before it finally happened.

As far as I know a tunnel to Morocco was already proposed in the early 1980s, and the idea has come back several times since.

Before that there was a project called Atlantropa, that was proposed in various iterations between the 1920s and 1950s, predominantly by Germans. Basically they wanted to close off the Straits of Hercules, building a huge dam between Spain and Morocco. As the inflow from rivers into the Mediterranean is insufficient to balance evaporation, there is a huge net inflow of water from the Atlantic. A dam would stop this inflow and cause the sea level of the Mediterranean to recede. The idea was that this would provide a lot of extra land to resettle excess population of different European countries, and permit roads and railways to be built to Africa.
 
I guess its a bit like the Channel Tunnel between Britain and France. The idea is very old and it took lots of false starts before it finally happened.

As far as I know a tunnel to Morocco was already proposed in the early 1980s, and the idea has come back several times since.

Before that there was a project called Atlantropa, that was proposed in various iterations between the 1920s and 1950s, predominantly by Germans. Basically they wanted to close off the Straits of Hercules, building a huge dam between Spain and Morocco. As the inflow from rivers into the Mediterranean is insufficient to balance evaporation, there is a huge net inflow of water from the Atlantic. A dam would stop this inflow and cause the sea level of the Mediterranean to recede. The idea was that this would provide a lot of extra land to resettle excess population of different European countries, and permit roads and railways to be built to Africa.
I think there are even - can't think of the right term, alternate history I think - novels about this happening or, in fact, the basin never filling.

I hadn't realized that channel tunnel construction had started in the 70's (iirc) and then faltered - I knew there had been test bores around 1900 or so. So this delay doesn't surprise me much.
 
I guess its a bit like the Channel Tunnel between Britain and France. The idea is very old and it took lots of false starts before it finally happened.

As far as I know a tunnel to Morocco was already proposed in the early 1980s, and the idea has come back several times since.

Before that there was a project called Atlantropa, that was proposed in various iterations between the 1920s and 1950s, predominantly by Germans. Basically they wanted to close off the Straits of Hercules, building a huge dam between Spain and Morocco. As the inflow from rivers into the Mediterranean is insufficient to balance evaporation, there is a huge net inflow of water from the Atlantic. A dam would stop this inflow and cause the sea level of the Mediterranean to recede. The idea was that this would provide a lot of extra land to resettle excess population of different European countries, and permit roads and railways to be built to Africa.
During the Messinian Salinity Crisis, which was caused by the Rif and Betic Orogenesis caused by the two thrust faults shutting off the connection between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean for a long period until the Strait of Gibraltar opened (the exact mechanism is under debate, because there is no evidence of tectonics having caused the opening), it took a thousand years for the Mediterranean to dry down to its minimum. I guess the Germans were ready to wait for a long time :). The original connection to the Atlantic was not where the Strait is today, but variously through the Rif and/or Betic channels(s) which both closed up due to fault driven Orogenesis (mountain rising), One of the leading current theories of the process of the Strait opening has to do with a river valley of a river flowing into the dried up Mediterranean from the Betc or Rif mountains, capturing the Atlantic. The technical literature is quite fascinating to read actually.

If a tunnel is constructed it will be near the Atlantic end of the Strait because that is where it is 300m deep. Anywhere near the famous Rock of Gibraltar it is around 900m deep. See for example (Wikimedia Commons License):

1720799426786.png

To take advantage of minimizing depth the tunnel will probably be close to 18-20 miles long. Of course the under sea floor geology will also determine the routing over and above just the depth.
 
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