Posted by: alcrabat | 3 April 2010

The Rabat-Sale Tramway

Those who support the project dream that it will be the magical cure for pollution and traffic, but can their dreams come true?

By: Bilal Z, Advanced 3

The project, which was first initiated in 2006, had high hopes for the future. Putting ambitious goals on the table and using huge resources, he sought to achieve them. But when the roadwork commenced and the city’s already damaged infrastructure started to become more and more destroyed, people living in both cities began to complain and to suffer daily on their commute to work.

To understand the situation better, we should look into the problems that this project is supposed to solve. As everyone knows, the majority of those living in Sale work in Rabat. This is largely because affording a life in Sale is much easier than in the capital city. But as a consequence, they have to drive or to take public transportation to get to work, which is not as easy as it may seem. First, most of these people can’t afford to buy a car and fuel it everyday. Next, public transportation is everyone’s last choice these days because of the limited supply of buses yet their high demand. In disregarding the bus problem, the Tramway seems a perfect solution. But the problem is, after the roadwork began, moving between the two cities has become almost impossible due to construction making already small roads even smaller and defacing the city.

Let’s start with the first hidden problem. A large number of people have lost their homes recently (see picture [i]).

A father and his four children were evicted from their home in Ar-Rahba.

Since the moment it started, this project has been a hurricane that destroys everything in its way, and now a large number of citizens have no solution but to leave their houses in exchange for unfair refunds. Seventy houses have been destroyed which means that 70 families were forced to look for another home, and more are still waiting. [ii] To avoid their homes from being destroyed, others sought to scare or embarrass workers from destroying their homes in a more helpless attempt to save their livelihoods. As people felt like they couldn’t do anything else, they wrote sentences on their houses’ walls so that no one would destroy them.  They thought that by writing the king’s name and parts of the national anthem they could shame workers from destroying their homes. But nothing has worked.


However the effect of this destruction didn’t stop at the citizens’ homes, but it went to the Rabat and Sale’s historical monuments. Some parts of the wall of Rabat were destroyed for example; the old gate of the city of ALIRFAN, wiped out (see picture[iii]). But those heading the Tramway project mention that if this plan works, it will actually promote tourism by giving a more important value and access to some isolated monuments. However, it seems ironic and superfluous to promote these isolated monuments in exchange for damaging others.


And that’s exactly why it appears that this project is not made to improve citizens’ lives but paradoxically to encourage tourism. While a bus ticket coasts 3.5Dhs, a Tramway ticket will cost between 6 and 8Dhs.[iv] For a standard middle class citizen, who chooses to live in Sale because of its lower cost of living, affording this ticket everyday is out of reach. So are Moroccans going to abandon using their vehicles and start using the Tram? In my opinion, no. Looking deeper, this concept that the Tram should be made to decrease traffic is unexpectedly and surprisingly problematic: in order to provide space for the Tramway’s lane, large roads have been reduced. Moving between the cities by car has already become a nightmare. People comfort themselves by saying that when the construction ends everything will more than return to be the way it used to be; it will be better. They’ll soon realize that those who planned for this project didn’t take into consideration citizens’ choice, namely evaluating the choice between buses, cars, and the Tramway. It is as if the planners are really saying: “Citizen, you are going to take the Tram in the future, despite its cost. Even if its ticket is too expensive, we have made it impossible to drive your own vehicle!”

We, as those that suffer every day, were happy when we first heard about the Tram. However, we’d love to see some improvement in this project and some real answers. We are not against finding solutions, but want to find the right solutions. And to find these solutions, we must look deeper than surface transportation problems. Rabat is an old city that is missing good infrastructure; maybe we might consider working on upgrading both cities’ infrastructure first and then move to everything else. No citizen should have problems getting to work or school everyday because it is things like this which makes the difference between developed and underdeveloped countries.  It is the enhancement of citizens’ daily lives which leads them to be proud of their citizenship.





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