With a fast-growing population, rising congestion and densely-populated urban areas, developing solutions for transport has become a necessity in several Algerian cities. Since 2003 the government has been working to implement a vast and ambitious urban transport development programme, with a total cost of nearly €9bn. Despite budgetary constraints prompted by the decline in hydrocarbons revenues, a series of planned and ongoing projects are set to significantly improve urban transport in the capital and a number of secondary cities in the medium-term.
Inaugurated in October 2011, the Algiers metro was the country’s first underground public transport system. Line one of the capital’s metro, a $1.2bn investment, runs parallel to Algeria’s coastline for 9.2 km, from Haï El Badr to Kouba. The 10-station line serves the densely-populated neighbourhoods of Bachdjarah, El Magharia, Hussein Dey, El Hamma, Sidi M’Hamed and central Algiers. Entreprise du Métro d’Alger (EMA), which manages the capital’s metro (as well as the tramway system of Algiers, Oran and Constantine), awarded an eight-year contract to operate the line to a subsidiary of Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP), RATP El Djazair.
In July 2015 an extension running eastwards and connecting Haï El Badr to El Harrach Centre was inaugurated, adding four stations along 4 km of line. The €110m extension, which began in 2008, was executed by a Franco-Algerian consortium made up of Colas Rail, KOUGC, CRK and Siemens.
In the medium-term, a series of planned extensions, some of which are already in progress, are set to expand the Algiers metro system significantly. A second extension, running southwards, is already under way and will connect Haï El Badr to Aïn Naadja, adding 3.6 km of new track and three stations. The project, expected to be operational in October 2017, will serve the municipalities of Bachdjarrah and Gué de Constantine and provide a direct link to the Aïn Naadja railway station. Work on a third extension – a two-station, 1.7-km line linking Tafourah Grande Poste to Place des Martyrs – is also scheduled to begin before the end of 2015, with a delivery date of late 2017.
Feasibility studies have also been conducted for two further extensions: a 6-km line with six stations connecting Aïn Naadja to Baraki and a 9-km, eight-station route connecting El Harrach Centre to Bab Ezzouar. The former would offer a direct link to the railway system through a station at Gué de Constantine, while the latter would provide a link to the capital’s Houari-Boumediene Airport and the university centre through a tramway connection. Both projects are expected to be complete by 2020, adding 15 km to the existing metro line, though budgetary constraints could result in delays.
Long- Term Plans
In the longer-term, two other extensions currently undergoing studies could add another 21 km to the capital’s metro line by 2025. An 8-km extension with eight stations will link Place des Martyrs to Bab El Oued and Chevalley in the northeast, while a 14-km extension will connect Chevalley to Draria. Construction projects may also include an elevated metro connecting Haï El Badr to Chevalley along 8 km, though feasibility studies for the 11-station line have yet to be conducted.
Aomar Hadbi, CEO of EMA, told OBG, “By 2018, the Algiers metro will have gone from 14 km in exploitation to 18 km by 2018. By 2022 that figure will have more than doubled to 40 km, and by 2024 the metro line will stretch a total of 54 km with 50 stations.”
Outside the capital, feasibility studies for a metro line in Oran have been conducted by Spain’s SENER, proposing a 19.66-km metro line with 20 stations and four transfer points, connecting El Hassi to the university in Bir El Djir. The AD138bn (€1.3bn) project would have capacity to transport 32,000 passengers daily. However, construction has yet to start, and with the current macroeconomic headwinds, it may be some time before it is completed. “Though feasibility studies have been completed, the project has been deferred in the context of budgetary constraints,” Hadbi told OBG.
Tramway systems are becoming an increasingly popular way to relieve congestion on urban roadways, with three Algerian cities – Algiers, Oran and Constantine – already benefitting from fully operational tramway systems.
The Algiers tramway system has the capacity to transport some 185,000 passengers per day. In 2015 the system saw an additional 7.2 km added to its network with two new extensions, bringing the capital’s total tramway line to 23.2 km and 38 stations. Similarly, the capital’s bus fleet is expanding. The state-owned Urban and Suburban Transport Establishment of Algiers (Établissement de Transport Urbain et Suburbain d’Alger, ETUSA) announced in March 2015 that 650 new buses would soon be operational Oran’s 18.7-km tramway line reached 13.8m passengers in 2014, since it became operational in May 2013. The system is operated by Société d’ Exploitation des Tramways, a joint venture between RATP, EMA and ETUSA, and it is in charge of managing and operating the country’s tramway and cable car systems. The Oran project, carried out by a consortium of France’s Alstom and Spanish company Isolux Corsan at a cost of €355m, can transport some 90,000 passengers daily. Four extensions already under study will add another 30 km to this line in the coming years.
The country’s third tramway system, in Constantine, extends over 8.1 km, with 10 stations. In operation since early July 2013, the AD44bn (€404.8m) tramway can transport 70,000 passengers daily and surpassed the 7m passenger mark by the end of 2014. In the medium-term, Constantine’s tramway system could see the addition of 22.1 km of tramway line, from three extension projects currently under study.
In The Pipeline
Three other cities are set to receive tramway systems in the short-term. Construction of Sétif’s first tramway system was started in May 2014 by a consortium which includes Alstom and Turkey’s Yapı Merkezi. With a price tag of AD38bn (€349.6m), the 30-station, 22.4 km line is expected to transport 5000 commuters per day.
Also under construction since September 2013 is the €250m tramway line in Mostaganem, which will stretch over 14.2 km with 24 stations. The project is being carried out by a Franco-Spanish consortium made up of Corsan-Corviam Construccion, Isolux Ingeniería and Alstom. In Sidi Bel Abbes, a 17.8 km tramway line with 26 stations and a price tag of €420m is also under construction by Turkey’s Yapı Merkezi and scheduled for completion in 2016.
Two projects for tramways systems in Annaba and Batna, however, are facing delays stemming from budgetary constraints. Nonetheless, feasibility studies for tram projects in eight additional cities – Béjaïa, Biskra, Bechar, Blida, Tébessa, Tlemcen, Djelfa and Skikda – are still ongoing. A series of cable car projects in a number of cities, including Algiers, Constantine, Oran and Annaba, are also underway, and should improve connectivity considerably in key urban centres with an often-complicated geography.
To reduce the cost of importing rolling stock and ensure adequate maintenance facilities, Cital, a joint venture between EMA, Alstom and Spanish infrastructure company Ferrovial, was created in 2011. The joint venture assembles and maintains Alstom Citadis trams in Algiers, Oran and Constantine and inaugurated the country’s first manufacturing and maintenance plant in May 2015 in the north-eastern city of Annaba. Spanning 46,000 sq metres, the plant can assemble five trams per month.
While private automotive transport remains the most common transportation mode in the country, the establishment of relatively efficient urban transport networks is attracting growing numbers of passengers to use over- and underground alternatives, particularly in the capital. According to EMA, since the opening of the Haï El Badr to El Harrach Centre extension, the number of metro users increased by 60%, reaching 2m on a monthly basis.
The trend is set to continue in coming years, as new initiatives to integrate payment methods for metro, tramway and bus networks are introduced. “We will soon be releasing a single card which passengers can use in the metro and tramway systems and the goal is to integrate all public transport payment methods in the future,” Hadbi told OBG.