Gibraltar Strait (Shutterstock)

New funding secured for research into Gibraltar Strait underwater rail tunnel

Map of the Gibraltar Strait Shutterstock

Much like the Channel Tunnel, or the Seikan Tunnel in Japan, the “Europe-Africa Gibraltar Strait fixed link” project would amount to the construction of an underwater tunnel housing a high-speed rail link. This time between Europe and Africa, under the Gibraltar Straits. The Spanish government announced ‎2.3 million euros in funding to revive the project with a design study, in the hopes of connecting Europe’s high-speed rail network to North Africa.

The Straits of Gibraltar, separating continental Europe from North Africa, measure a mere 14 kilometres at the narrowest point, with water depths ranging between 300 and 900 metres. The idea of building a crossing to connect the two continents is far from recent. Several bridges and tunnels have been proposed, with varying levels of feasibility, dating back to the 1930s. The Fixed Link Project through the Strait of Gibraltar has its origins in the Spanish-Moroccan Joint Declaration, dated 16 June 1979 in Fez, by King Hassan II of Morocco and King Juan Carlos I of Spain.

The Complementary Agreement of 24 October 1980 set up a Joint Spanish-Moroccan Committee, the Spanish Society for Fixed Communication across the Strait of Gibraltar (SECEGSA), and the Moroccan “Société Nationale d’Études du Détroit de Gibraltar.” After various studies and designs in the early 2000s, many questions were raised regarding the project’s feasibility, and it eventually lost steam in 2009, following the last joint committee meeting, that October.

It was not until February of this year, following improved diplomatic relations, that commitment to the project was reiterated by both nations. Meeting in Rabat, Spain’s Minister of Transport Raquel Sanchez and her Moroccan counterpart, the Minister of Equipment and Water, Nizar Baraka, agreed to restart studies on the rail link, with the intention of commencing construction around 2030. Two months later, in April 2023, the 43rd meeting of the Spanish-Moroccan Joint Committee (set up in 1980) of the fixed link project of the Straits of Gibraltar took place.

New progress on the tunnel

The 16 June 2023 edition of Spain’s government gazette confirms that Spain has approved transfer of funds to the Spanish Society for Fixed Communication across the Strait of Gibraltar (SECEGSA) in Spain, for a design study. According to the Maghreb Agence Presse (MAP), “The plan for recovery, transformation and resilience (PRTR), adopted by the Spanish government, includes 2.3 million euros of European funds to update the studies related to the project.” The PRTR is financed by the European Union (EU) as a response to the COVID19 crisis. The total national allocation for grants amounts to 77.2 billion euros since the last revision in June of last year.

British Interest and Football

The Strait of Gibraltar holds significant geostrategic importance due to its role as a crucial bottleneck for the movement of people and goods. It encompasses three states: Spain, the United Kingdom, and Morocco, along with four prominent ports namely Gibraltar, Algeciras, Ceuta, and Tangier Med. Establishing a connection between Spain and Morocco through the construction of a tunnel would result in reduced transportation and logistics costs in the region, facilitating trade and enhancing ease of travel. Furthermore, this project’s economic and strategic significance extends beyond the local level, encompassing both the European and African continents.

Expressing interest in the tunnel proposal, the United Kingdom, which currently holds jurisdiction over Gibraltar, aims to strengthen collaboration with Morocco following Brexit. This initiative holds the potential to attract additional British tourists and investors to Morocco while providing a new avenue to promote Moroccan products, particularly agricultural goods, in the British market.

apart from the evident economic benefits, the completion of this tunnel has another stake: it would support the joint bid by Morocco, Spain, and Portugal to host the Football World Cup in 2030. Mohamed Charqui, an economic expert, highlights that this project would bolster Tangier’s position as a continental and international hub, further strengthening its economic standing.

Tunnel concept

Various media, including the Spanish publication ‘La Razòn,’ report that the rail link would be 42 kilometres long, of which 27.7 kilometres would run in an underwater tunnel and 11 kilometres in an underground tunnel exclusively (38.67 kilometres in total), between Punta Paloma, in Tarifa, and Punta Malabata, in the Bay of Tangiers. The maximum depth would be 300 metres and the maximum gradient would be 3 per cent. Each single-track tunnel would have an inner diameter of 7.9 metres, while the service gallery would be 6 metres in diameter. The three tunnels would be connected by cross passages at regular intervals of 340 metres.

Al Boraq is Morocco’s rapid rail system, spanning 323 kilometres and connectingCasablanca and Tangier in Morocco. Managed by the national railway company ONCF, this high-speed service was officially launched on 15 November 2018 by King Mohammed VI of Morocco. It is the first of its kind on the African continent. Should the Europe-Africa Gibraltar strait fixed link come to be, it would be connected to this high-speed rail network on the Moroccan side. The Maghreb railway network in turn connects Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, meaning that in the future, one could imagine a rail line connecting Paris, Madrid, Rabat, Casablanca, Alger, and Tunis.

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Author: Emma Dailey

Emma Dailey is an editor at and

2 comments op “New funding secured for research into Gibraltar Strait underwater rail tunnel”

Chris Hebbron|24.06.23|11:04

What will the track gauge be?

Charles Alban|13.07.23|13:31

Standard guage. The new high speed lines in Spain are standard guage and so are the North African lines.

A max grade of 3% seems very severe for freight trains. I think that’s an error.

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