Presentation of the Transport Sector


Indicators related to the transport sector in Tunisia are as follows:

_ Its share in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is 6%.

_ Its added value amounts to 1.67 billion Euros or 31% of the value generated by services.

_ It employs 120,000 people hence 3.9% of the labor force.

_ It absorbs 15% of the country’s investments with more than 50% made by the private sector.

_ The average annual growth rate is 5.5% for the 2002-2008 period.

The transport infrastructure is made up of:

_ 7 international airports offering a total capacity of 13.8 million passengers, to be reinforced by an eighth

airport with a capacity of 5 million passengers towards the end of 2009

_ 7 commercial ports currently handle the transit of 30 million tons of freight and 1.3 million ship and

cruiser passengers a year;

_ 2,165 kilometers of railways;

_ About 22,000 kilometers of classified roads and 400 kilometers of highways.


Transport Sector’s Stakeholders


The transportation sector is managed by the Ministry of Transport, which mission is to provide the country

with a global, economic and safe transportation system, to ensure its proper operation and to make of it an

essential factor for economic and social development.

Other Ministries involved in the sector mainly include:

_ Ministry of Equipment, Housing and Territory Planning (MEHAT), in charge of the administrative and technical management of road infrastructures as well as the implementation of State policies in the field

of territory development.

_ Ministry of Economic Development and International Cooperation (MDCI) particularly in charge of designing five-year long term development plans, and hence planning investments in the sector and the

search for external funding opportunities;

_ Ministry of Finance (MF) mainly in charge of transportation taxes and funding;

_ Ministry of Interior and Local Development (MIDL) particularly responsible for road traffic.


Presentation of the Railway Network


The Tunisian railway network covers 2,165 km including 1,991 km in operation, 673 km of which solely used for freight carriage and 1,314 km are used for passengers as well as for freight.

1,686 km of the tracks are metrically gauged while 471 km are normally gauged (1.435 m), and 8 km have double gauge.

The network is operated by the Tunisian Railways National Company (SNCFT) in charge transporting passengers and carrying goods and products. The Company employs 4,800 people and offers the following services:

_ Passengers transportation to suburban areas: 33 million passengers;

_ Transportation of goods: 8 million tons of phosphate and 3 million tons of various products.

Traffic is carried out using the following equipment:

_ 130 main-line locomotives;

_ 42 shunting locomotives;

_ 06 electrical trains composed of three units each;

_ 262 rail cars;

_ 4,000 wagons;

_ 2,000 containers;

SNCFT holds 8 logistical platforms for the rail-road combined transportation.

The operation of the SNCFT train network before reform was characterized by:

_ A very limited traffic development (2%), while the overall transportation activity was considerably

growing (7%).

_ Chronic deficits due to the State defined pricing policy with no consideration to production costs.

_ The massive financial transfer from the State to SNCFT.

_ Superabundance of employees resulting in a massive payroll compared to revenues.

_ A heavy organization structure with consequent structural expenses.

_ Existence of an important potential poorly prepared for competition.

_ Physical handicaps (double gauging, modest travel portions with an average course of 170 km) as well as

institutional handicaps (absence of a framework defining the Company’s relation with the State).


Engaged Reforms


A reform was engaged to remedy to the situation and was based on three main pillars:

_ Redefinition of the railways economic role in the transport system:

- Specialization in the commercially profitable fields of activity:

_ Transportation of phosphate and various goods and products on the entire network,

_ Transportation of passengers on long distance main lines, on the Tunis-Gabes and Tunis- Ghardimaou routes (Libyan and Algerian borders).

- Operation of suburbs’ passengers services, economically and socially justified in the frame of a public service agreement.

_ Reorganization of the railway activity institutional framework:

The purpose is mainly to redefine reciprocal obligations between the State and SNCFT so as to ensure equity between modes:

- Payment by the State of infrastructure costs, either directly through the State Budget or by reimbursing credits granted by lending institutions.

- SNCFT’s financial reorganization at the end of 2001 concerning and amount of 106 MD (about 63 million Euros) by:

_ Rescheduling debts towards suppliers and banks,

_ Coverage by the State budget of reimbursement annuities.

- SNCFTs’ social reorganization by cutting back on overstaffing:

_ 1,600 agents during the 1997-2001 period;

_ 1,200 agents during the 2002-2006.

The staff was then reduced from 9,000 in 1991 to 4,800 at the end of 2008, hence improving the personnel/turnover ratio, by reducing it from more than 75% to 52.4% now.

Reorganization operations aimed at reducing the railway transportation costs and improving its competitiveness, and consequently enhancing the railway activity attractiveness.

_ Reorganization of the regulatory framework and SNCFT reorganization:

A series of laws and texts have been promulgated

- Law n° 98-74 dated August 19, related to railways;

- Law n° 98-89 dated November 2, 1998, related to the reorganization of SNCFT’s financial situation;

- Law n° 98-90 dated November 2, 1998, related to SNCFT.

This also concerns consolidation of Law n° 69-31 dated May 9, 1969 approving SNCFT’s bylaws, based on the adoption of the public franchising system assigned by the State to SNCFT and the operation of

services according to a Specifications Book.

Decree n° 99-2318 dated October 11, 1999, approving the franchising convention of railways public domains concluded on September 9, 1999 between the State and SNCFT.

_ SNCFT reorganization into business units:

• Main lines business unit

• Tunis southern suburbs business unit

• Sahel suburbs business unit

• Phosphate transportation business unit

• Various products and goods transportation unit

• Equipment maintenance business unit

• Railways public domain business unit

The railways public domain business unit constitutes the beginning of the distinction between State owned infrastructures and railway services conducted in the framework of an SNCTF franchise.

In accounting terms, infrastructure and operation are independently identified but both are included in the financial balance as much as other fixed assets mainly the rolling stock. Separation was made in general accounting terms since promulgation of the 1998 concession law, granting the operation of SNCFT’s Infrastructure in the form of franchise.

Passengers and freight services have been separated at the level of analytical accounting since the restructuration of the SNCFT in 1998. SNCFT organization, clearly identifying the infrastructure manager

(railway network) and SNCFT transportation operators (freight, phosphate, main line trains, Tunis and Sahel suburban trains) split in different business units.


Reform Outputs and Freight Corridor


Reforms resulted in SNCFT’s financial balance after many deficient years, bank debits and unpaid charges.

SNCFT has been able to restructure its activities and focus on lines where railway could be more competitive, mainly the transportation of phosphate, and the passenger transportation on the Tunis- Algerian Border and

Tunis-Gabes portions.

The State compensated tariffs reduced in suburban transport lines and respected related convention in 2002 based on a formula used by the Ministry of Finance to determine the compensation amount.

The company was able to reverse the drop of goods transportation rates and develop other activities such as the container carriage services.

Over the four previous years, the railway activity (unit-km) increased at annual average rate of 1.9% including 4% for passengers transport and 0.5% for the transportation of goods.

Nonetheless, this activity represents 14% only of the global goods transportation business and 5% only of passengers’ transportation services.

As for freight, the most appropriate railway line is the North-South corridor, connected in the North to the Algerian and Moroccan networks, and can be extended in the South to Libya and Egypt.

This line represents a major component of the Euro-Maghreb freight corridor discussed in a symposium held by UIC in Tunis on November 17-18, 2006.

This line will be connected to Europe’s South shore through the sea highways "Marseille-Tunis (Radès Port) and Genoa-Tunis (Radès Port).

The deep waters port Enfidha will increase Euro-Maghreb maritime highways through the Mediterranean.


Railways Development Plan and Funding


The elaboration of the transportation sector’s orientations during the 11th

Socio-Economic Development Plan Period (2007-2011) was mainly based on results of different sector-based and strategic studies and on deficiencies noted during the previous period.

The sector’s general orientations focus on the following objectives:

_ Full priority to collective passengers’ public transportation and mainly to

railway transportation,

_ Reinforcement of the infrastructure,

_ Renewal and extension of the rolling stock,

_ Improve the quality of service,

_ Development of multi-modal transport.

The 11th plan adopted the railway transport as a strategic choice and an inevitable solution to congestion and energy consumption problems, hence reducing pollution, preserving the environment and enabling the rapid expansion of traffic in good comfort and safety conditions.

As for the 11th Plan investments (2007-2011), a 1,782 MD envelope (1,000 million Euros) has been allocated to the railway transport sector, which share grew four times compared to the 10th Plan’s dedicated envelope

(2002-2006) then amounting to 410 MD (230 million Euros).

Infrastructure projects aim at reinforcing the inter-urban or inter-city railway network enabling better connections between the country’s different regions by:

- Developing and extending some lines,

- Renewing tracks on some lines,

- Modernizing of maintenance,

- Reinforcing engineering structures,

- Equipping grade crossings and improving stations’ conditions.

The main projects are:

- Electrification project of southern suburb lines,

- Renewal of tracks on the Tunis-Ghardimaou line, towards the Algerian border,

- Doubling tracks between Moknine and Mahdia,

- Development of railway stations,

- Optimizing and rationalizing the transportation of phosphates,

- Safety equipment,

- Reinforcing engineering structures and bridges.

As for rolling stock, reforms mainly concern:

- Acquisition of motor coaches,

- Acquisition of equipment for suburban lines,

- Acquisition of equipment for the transportation of phosphate,

- Signaling and communication projects.

In the middle and long terms, the National Transport Plan proposed a voluntary policy scenario favoring the development of public transportation, mainly railways; this scenario offers important benefits for the Community expressed in terms of:

- Decreasing the number of travel on roads hence reduction of related operation costs,

- Travel gains for users,

- Energy saving,

- Reduction of loads on the environment,

- Reducing traffic accidents.




The Tunisian railway system suffers from a major handicap as it is made up of 471 km of normal gauging lines and 1,686 km of metrical gauging tracks.

The Tunis-Algerian Border line is a normal track line and does not raise any major connection issues with Algeria and Morocco.

However, its connection with the southern network and the Libyan border shall be with a metrical gauging system, which raises the North-South connection problem, and also with the future Libyan network, which will be normally gauged.

Technical specifications used in Tunisia for the railways’ sub-systems are the following:


_ French standards

_ UIC Forms

_ European pre-standards


_ French standards and UIC forms with PRS type split switching stations and computer interlocking stations (PIPC).


_ Hydraulic diesel,

_ Electrical diesel,

_ 25 KV alternative electrical traction,

_ 2x25 KV alternative electrical traction (Tunis suburban line ad of the end of 2010).

Rolling Stock

_ UIC standards and European pre-standards or equivalent norms (American standards: AAR Standard)

Traffic Operation and Management

_ Management of traffic made by computer application (GCAO) using the Roman Solver system (Siemens) planning and regulating traffic requirements


_ Track maintenance: UIC forms and French standards,

_ Maintenance of signaling: specifications according to suppliers’ documents (French and Italian),

_ Maintenance of equipment: specifications according to suppliers’ documents, according to cycles adapted to Tunisian weather conditions and to line itineraries.

Telematics Applications

_ CCITT specifications,

International standards (Frame relay networks, IP Protocols).


Railway Safety


Tunisia does not offer a national authority in charge of railway safety.

SNCFT (the Tunisian National Railways Company) is responsible for the execution of studies involving railways, in the framework of regional commissions chaired by the director of the accident area. The

commission’s work is regulated by internal procedures defined by instructions given by the General Management and a central commission which members are appointed by the General Manager chairing the commission.

Law n° 98-74 dated August 19, 1998 related to railways defines rules concerning the consistency of railways’ public domains and conservation rules, as well as the safety and operation standards of railway traffic. In its

Article 50, said law states that in case of serious accidents or incidents, the Minister of Transport may issue an order to launch an administrative investigation.

In this framework, he shall also define the mission and composition of the investigation commission.


Urban Railway Transport


The Tunis Transport Company (STT) operates a tramway network in the Grand Tunis area made up of 6 main lines covering a total distance of 82 km, by means of 156 metro cars and 14 electrical metro wagons referred

to as TGM.

In 2008, the tram’s global traffic served 120 million passengers including 45 million school students.

The State compensates reduced tariffs and funds infrastructure investments.

The tramway’s network will be reinforced by a large capacity rapid train network on exclusive lanes within the Grand Tunis area, which was identified in the framework of the regional transport master plan approved

in 1999.

Objectives assigned to the new transport system are multifold:

_ Respond to high travel demand on the main transport corridors.

_ Try to maintain the present global share of public transportation in overall motorized travels.

_ Compensate the tramway lines’ shortfalls.

_ Serve the third belt surrounding Tunis area in acceptable conditions.

_ Ease downtown congestion by reducing the traffic of buses and private cars, which involves resorting to new and efficient bus transportation modes serving the Grand Tunis area’s suburbs, and the construction of peripheral dissuasion parking areas for private cars. The decongestion of the city center will also be made by facilitating transit through new lines.  

The initial statement is that the Tunis urban area offers advantages for the construction of an integrated public transportation network based on a hierarchy of modes, which structuring core may be made up of

electrified railway lines using exclusive lanes.

_ The existence of railway funnels spared by urbanization that may be used to create an efficient railway network to serve the third belt.

_ The existence of a railway line serving an important corridor (Southern coast) now being electrified.

_ A relatively developed tramway line connecting the main neighborhoods of the second belt to the city center.

_ A bus network complementing previous networks: local relations and periphery to periphery connections.

_ Existence of sites in Tunis city center capable of hosting intermodal exchange poles.

The new transportation system forms an integrated and hierarchical network made up of several components:

_ A railway network:

- A large capacity rapid railway network “RFR” to supply the 3rd belt areas and to “decongest” existing bus and tramway lines.

- The existing tramway network complemented by additional lines.

_ Bus infrastructure lines in exclusive lanes complementing the rapid railway network and the tramway network (90 km).

_ Three central exchange poles (Place Barcelona, Tunis PV, Tunis Marine) and fifteen new poles in peripheral neighborhoods to develop intermodal connections and favor correspondences between railway and bus networks.

_ Ten peripheral dissuasion parking areas offering capacity for 6,000 vehicles to encourage car drivers to resort to railways.

A cross configuration has been adopted for the public transportation heavy network, correcting the present Y configuration of the tramway network and favoring exchanges between the city’s 4 cardinal points; one of the central exchange poles will be located at the meeting point of the cross’ four branches.

The execution of the project will last fifteen years. The first operational portion will be achieved during the 11th plan for a total cost of 550 million Euros for a global cost of 2 billion Euros.


source: Status Report on the Implementetion of RTAP