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Rail projects in Algeria: Focus on tramway systems [free access]

February 1, 2013

The urban rail segment in Algeria has witnessed a flurry of activity in the last few years. Two systems - one metro and one light-rail – have been operationalised, both in the capital city of Algiers, in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Going forward, two new light-rail systems, which are under construction, will begin operations in 2013. Moreover, expansion projects for the systems in Algiers are under development. In addition, 14 new light rail systems are currently being studied.


Economic environment


Algeria is classified as an upper middle income country by the World Bank, as its per capita gross national income falls between USD4,036 - USD12,475. The gross domestic product (GDP) of Algeria was USD206.5 billion in 2012 (estimated). Industry contributes 61 per cent of the GDP, services 30 per cent and agriculture 9 per cent. The country recorded an economic growth rate of 2.6 per cent in 2012, slightly higher than the 2.4 per cent recorded in 2011 but below the growth rate of 3.3 per cent in 2010. The country remains dominated by the state, a legacy of its socialist post-independence development model.


Demographically, Algeria is the 34th most populous nation of the world, with a population of 37.36 million (July 2012) and an annual population growth rate of 1.92 per cent. A majority of its population is young, with a median age of 28 years.


About 66 per cent of the total Algerian population is urbanised. Algiers, Boumerdas, Oran, Constantine, Batna, Bab Ezouar, Annaba, Sidi Bel Abbès, Ech Chettia and Bejaïa are amongst the major cities of Algeria. Algiers city is an important economic, commercial and financial centre, and also has the highest cost of living among North African cities. It also has the maximum population of 2.74 million. The cities of Constantine (413 km south of Algiers) and Oran (435 km west of Algiers) are the next two highly populated cities in the country.


Operational systems


Algiers Metro: The system is the first underground metro in North Africa and the second metro in Africa (after Cairo). The project was launched in 1980 but faced several delays due to financial and security issues, before its final re-launch in 2006. The first line was operationalised in November 2011. The system is being developed Entreprise du Métro d’Alger/Algiers Metro Authority (EMA). A subsidiary of France-based Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP), RATP El Djazaïr, operates and manages the system under an eight-year contract awarded in 2009.


At present, the system comprises one operational line, Line 1, which spans 9.2 km connecting Tafourah-Grande Poste (in the city centre) to the Hai el Badr district (at Kouba in the southeast) and covers 10 stations. Figure 1 gives a representative map of the line. Of these stations, nine are underground and one elevated. Constructed at an estimated cost of USD1.2 billion by a consortium of Germany-based Siemens, Spain-based Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles S.A. (CAF) and France-based Vinci Construction Grand Projects, the line is expected to serve 60 million passengers per year. In January 2012, it was announced that the average daily ridership was 34,650 and over 2.4 million passengers had used the metro since it began operations.


The line has a standard gauge (1,435 mm) track, and sources power from the third rail (750 V DC). In 2008, CAF deployed a fleet of 14 six-car train sets with the capacity to transport 21,000 passengers per hour in each direction. These driverless trains operate at a maximum speed of 72 km/hr.


For the fare system, France-based Thales Group has supplied an integrated ticketing system based on a combination of magnetic-stripe tickets and contactless smart cards. Entry and exit control gates, ticket-dispensing systems for ticket offices and automatic ticket vending machines have all been provided by the company.


Figure 1: Algiers Metro Line 1




Algiers Tram: Algiers Tram is a light-rail system being developed by EMA and is operated by Etablissement Public de Transport Urbain et Suburbain d’Alger/Algiers Enterprise of Urban and Suburban Transport (ETUSA).


At present, one line called the East Line, which spans 16.3 km and covers 27 stations, over two sections is operational. The first section, from the Bordj El Kiffan suburb to the Zerhouni Mokhtar neighbourhood in Bab Ezzouar in the eastern outskirts of the city, spans 7.2 km and covers 13 stations. It was put into service in May 2011. The second section, from the Les Fusillés neighbourhood in the downtown area to the Zerhouni Mokhtar neighbourhood in the eastern outskirts of the city, spans 9.1 km and covers 14 stations. It features two multimodal stations for subway, tram, bus and taxi.


The line operates with a rolling stock of 41 Citadis trams, supplied by France-based Alstom between 2008 and December 2010. Each tram set is 40 metres in length, air-conditioned, low-floor, and has eight lateral doors, large tinted glass windows, wide aisles, passenger information displays in French and Arabic, quiet engine operation, and a capacity to carry about 350 passengers during peak travel times. Alstom is responsible for maintaining the tram system equipment and the tram sets for 10 years. The line has a standard gauge (1,435 mm) track, and sources power from an overhead catenary.


Alstom has provided all infrastructure including platforms, rails, electrification, signalling, a 42,000-square metre depot at Bordj El Kiffan and the central command post.


The average driving speed is 40 km/hr and priority signalling at junctions enables a route travel time of 25 minutes. In 2012, the average daily ridership on the line was estimated to be 150,000 passengers.


The ticketing system is based on an open central platform with ability for multimodal integration. Fare collection for tram, subway and buses is planned to be integrated. Ticket validation machines installed on-board the trams are able to read the magnetic-stripe tickets used on the buses. US-based ACS has provided the ticketing system under contract from Alstom, and ticket prices vary between USD0.25 to USD0.64, depending on the distance travelled.


Upcoming projects


Algiers Metro: For the metro network, extensions and new lines are planned up to 2020. The various extension projects for Line 1 are indicated in Table 1. Two other lines are also being planned. Line 2 will connect Tafourah with the municipalities of Bordj El Kiffan and Dar El Beida with 15 stations. Line 3 will connect Hussein Dey with Dély Ibrahim over 11 stations.


Table 1: Planned Extensions for Algiers Metro Line 1

Project Route

Extension Length (km)


Project Status

Hai el Badr to El Harrach Centre



In October 2012, Colas Rail, a subsidiary of France-based construction and telecommunications group Bouygues SA, in a JV with Algeria-based KOU GC, secured a EUR85 million contract for the extension. Colas Rail will be responsible for laying the track and the third rail, as well as the installation of electrical supply, low-voltage equipment, tunnel ventilation, and the ticketing system. Work is expected to be executed over a period of 23 months, with the new line scheduled to be operational in November 2014.

Tafourah Grande Poste station to Oued Koriche to the west



To be completed by 2015

Branch line connecting Hai el Badr to Ain Naadja



Construction began in 2011. To be completed by 2015.

Martyr’s Square to Dély Ibrahim








NA-not available

Source: Global Mass Transit Research


Algiers Tram: For the Algiers light-rail network, a third section of the tramway is expected to be operational in mid-2013, bringing the total length of the East Line to 23.2 km, covering 36 stations. The average daily ridership is expected to be 185,000 passengers when all three sections are operational. All three lines are being developed by EMA.


Constantine Tramway: The Constantine Tramway is a light rail line under construction in Constantine in north-eastern Algeria. The turnkey construction of the Constantine Tramway was entrusted to Pizzarotti, an Italian construction company, and Alstom. In the first phase, the 9-km Zouaghi-Ben-Abdelmalek Stadium line will be built, running from the city’s old-town alongside the main historical Mosque, passing over the slope of the Oued Rhumel, and proceeding through the university area, ending in the modern part of the city. The line will have 11 stations, of which three will be multi-modal (tram-bus-taxi).


Construction works began in August 2008 and the project is expected is expected to be completed by June 2013. The works include stations, two viaducts stretching 465 and 114 metres, an underpass for urban traffic (with an open cutting at 70 metres at the Emir Abdelkader Mosque), 12 supporting walls having an overall length of 1,885 metres and a ground level depot.


A 5-km extension of the line to connect it to Ali Mendjeli, the satellite city of Constantine was also planned in 2011. However, there has not been any progress on this front.


Oran Tramway: The Oran tramway is a light-rail system under construction in Oran. The first line of the network will cover 19 km over 32 stations. Work on the project began in late 2008, and is expected to be completed by 2014. Spain-based Isolux Corsán group is undertaking civil engineering works and track laying as well as setting overhead lines, while Alstom is supplying 30 Citadis trams and undertaking signalling works. Further, an extension from Hatab to Banarba (Le Rocher) has also been planned for the Oran Tramway.


Other tramway projects: In August 2012, EMA announced investment of over USD6 billion to equip 14 major cities with trams. The systems are planned to come up in the provinces of Sidi Bel Abbes, Mostaganem, Tlemcen and Bechar in the west of Algeria; Setif, Annaba, Batna, Beja a, Biskra, Skikda, Tebessa and Ourgla in the east; as well as Blida and Djelfa in the centre. Currently, these projects are being studied.


Future operations


For future operations and maintenance of all light-rail lines in Algeria, a special purpose vehicle (SPV), Société d’Exploitation des Tramways (SETRAM), was set up by EMA, ETUSA and RATP Dev in May 2012. Government agencies, EMA and ETUSA, together hold 51 per cent stake in the company, while RATP Dev holds the remaining 49 per cent stake. SETRAM has already been tasked with the operations and maintenance of the Oran and Constantine tramways.




Currently, rail-based mass transit projects are still under-developed in Algeria. Apart from expanding the Algiers Metro, the country has no further plans for heavy rail-based mass transit projects. However, Algeria is focusing on light rail projects, for which plans are in place, and SETRAM has been established. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen whether the plans translate into actual progress on-the-ground.


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