THE Spanish government has pledged €2.3 million towards a new feasibility study for a high-speed rail network to Morocco through an underwater tunnel.
The longstanding proposal, known as the ‘Europe-Africa Gibraltar Strait fixed link’, has now been revived after it was put on hold in 2009.
A joint Spanish-Moroccan commission reconvened for the first time in 14 years back in April, sparking renewed enthusiasm for the initiative.
Funding will be allocated from the European Union’s Recovery, Transformation & Resilience Plan.
It will be funnelled to the Spanish Society of Studies for a Fixed Link through the Strait of Gibraltar, which is tasked with exploring various possibilities for the project.
The Strait of Gibraltar, at its narrowest point between Point Marroquí in Spain and Point Cires in Morocco, spans a distance of just 13 km.
Conversely, the Channel Tunnel between England and France is over four times as long at 50km, encouraging optimists that this tunnel would be simpler and cheaper.
During the joint committee meeting, Spain’s Minister of Transport, Mobility, and Urban Agenda, Raquel Sanchez, emphasised the political significance of reviving the project after 14 years of dormancy.
“It is of utmost geostrategic relevance for our countries and for the relations between Europe and Africa,” she said.
Both parties agreed to develop a general strategy and a three-year work plan for the project in the coming years.
Efforts to connect the two continents date back to the 1930s when Spain first proposed the tunnel.
However, technical challenges arose due to the discovery of extremely hard rock beneath the Strait, making traditional tunnelling methods unfeasible at the time.
Another challenge is the depth of Strait of Gibraltar, which reaches nearly a kilometre at some parts.
In 2008, it was also reported that the Spanish government was finalising a feasibility study for the undersea tunnel.
At that time, the tunnel was projected to be 40 km long, passing 300 metres below the sea, with predictions that it was open by 2025.
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