As can be seen in so many other cities in the MENA region, Tunis has had to grapple with a soaring demand for public transport services, as a result of continued population growth and urban sprawl. The city is comparatively well equipped to handle the growing demand for transit solutions, with a tramway system, Métro de Tunis, operated by the Tunisian Transport Company (Société des Transports de Tunis, TRANSTU), as well as a network of suburban railway lines, managed by the Tunisian National Railway Company (Société Nationale de Chemins de Fer de Tunisie, SNCFT). As a means to ease congestion in the city and improve connectivity to peripheral areas, the authorities have initiated the implementation of a new, express suburban railway line.
Tunisia’s tramway infrastructure stretches over 48 km and comprises six dual-carriage lines and 66 stations. The first four lines were completed during 1985-92, the fifth in 1995 and the sixth line in 2008. TRANSTU operates 173 sets of rolling stock, 134 of which were ordered from Siemens, with the remaining from Alstom. Tunis’s network of suburban railways extends over 23 km, including 17 km of triple carriageway between Tunis and Hammam-Lif, and 6 km in dual carriageway between Hammam-Lif and Borj Cédria. The city is also crossed by the Tunis-Goulette-Marsa, or TGM, rail line, an 18.8-km long electrified line with 18,400-seat tram sets. About 122 trains runs daily on Tunis’s suburban network, carrying about 65,000 passengers.
As part of the Tunisia 2020 development plan, the SNCFT is looking to expand the capital’s suburban railway network, with the completion of an additional 7-km section in the south of Tunis toward the city of Soliman as well as an 18-km section between Siliana and Lakhouat. Technical and economic studies are under way and a public tender offer is expected.
In an attempt to increase efficiency in the urban transportation supply, the Greater Tunis area began developing a new express, high-speed rail system to surrounding areas. In 2007 the Ministry of Transport set up the Réseau Ferré Rapide (RFR), an entity responsible for the construction of five RFR lines in Tunis, with a projected capacity to transport 600,000 passengers every day.
The first phase of the project was initiated in 2014, consisting of the construction of the D and E lines in the eastern part of the Greater Tunis. The D section connects the centre of Tunis with Gobâa over a length of 12.2 km, while line E connects Tunis with Bougatfa over a 6.3-km section. At a cost of €550m, the two lines are being 40% funded by the Tunisian state (€225m) and 60% financed by a pool of three European lenders, namely the French Development Agency (€50m), Kreditanstalt Für Wiederaufbau (€70m) and the European Investment Bank (€177m).
Scheduled for completion in October 2018, the two projects have been awarded via a tender bid to a consortium comprising Siemens, Colasrail and SOMATRA-GET. As of early 2017, the project was still ongoing, having faced several delays related to access to land and expropriation processes.
The second phase of the project envisions the extension of the D and E lines, the construction of the C line in the south and the F line to the north. Line C will be 19.5 km long and the F line 10.5 km. The network – which will be operated by the SNCFT – will cover a total surface of some 85 km and operate at an average speed of 40 km per hour, compared to 18 km per hour achieved on the existing tram network. The total cost of the project has been estimated at TD3bn (€1.3bn), including the completion of a series of supporting infrastructure projects, such as road interchanges. In December 2016 a TD400m (€172m) deal was signed between the Ministry of Transport and South Korea’s manufacturer Hyundai for the supply of 28 tram sets expected to be delivered in January 2018 for testing.