|06RABAT1091||2006-06-06 11:49:00||UNCLASSIFIED||Embassy Rabat|
1. For decades, the governments of Morocco and Spain have
been contemplating a way to connect Europe and Africa
through a permanent land link across the Strait of
Gibraltar. After a series of feasibility studies spanning
more than a quarter century, a mixed Spanish-Moroccan
commission determined that an undersea train tunnel similar
to the France-England Chunnel would be the most practical
option. Studies found that a suspension bridge would be
four times as costly, could interfere with navigation in the
strait, and would be harmful to migrating sea life.
2. The chosen route would link Paloma Point near Tarifa in
Spain with the Moroccan Malabata Point, just east of
Tangier, through a 37-km train tunnel. This route crosses
the shallowest section of the strait, with a maximum depth
of 300 meters. It is not feasible to run the tunnel between
the two closest points of land - Cap Sires in Morocco and
Punta Canales in Spain, a mere 14 km apart - because the
ocean depth at that point reaches 900 meters.
3. The tunnel is expected to cost $5 billion and will be
financed by Spain, Morocco and the EU, with the possible
eventual participation by private enterprises. The two
countries intend to launch a tender in 2007 or 2008 and
complete the works in 2020. Trains would transport
passengers, vehicles, and cargo between the two terminals in
30 minutes. The annual traffic capacity of the tunnel will
be 1.6 million cars, 500,000 trucks, five million vehicle
passengers and 11 million rail passengers.
4. COMMENT: Given the high volume of illicit traffic in
persons and narcotics flowing between Morocco and Spain,
legitimate concerns exist regarding the wisdom of
facilitating the flow by tunneling under the strait.
Spanish diplomats in Rabat seem unconcerned, but other
European diplomats have privately expressed their skepticism
to Emboffs regarding the wisdom of creating such a link.
Either way, completion of the project is a long way off, and
circumstances are like to change significantly in the