Trip to Morocco and Spain - Autumn 2023

General Notes

Flight to Marrakech for eight days in Morocco, with two days of Branch Line Society railtouring including the famous desert railway to Bouarfa; then flying from Tetouan to Alacant for three days in Spain covering some passenger track; then flying home from València.

I had covered about half of the passenger lines in Morocco on a previous trip in 2013 - photos here - and doing the Desert Express fitted in nicely with covering the remaining passenger lines. I also had time to do the tram routes that had been opened since the 2013 visit. The flight from Tetouan to Alicante/Alacant was so cheap I couldn't refuse a few more days in Spain.

Operating Company Abbreviations

  • RENFE - Red Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Españoles (principal train operator in Spain)
  • ONCF - Office National des Chemins de Fer (Marocain)
  • CT - Casa (Casablanca) Tramway
  • FGV - Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat Valenciana (metre gauge tram and train operator in the Alacant area)
  • TRS - Tram Rabat-Salé

Track gauge

Morocco: standard gauge (1435 mm). Spain: unless otherwise stated, RENFE trains of types AVE and Avant are standard (1435 mm) gauge, others are Iberian (1668 mm) gauge. Gauge-changing trains are listed individually.

Place Arrive Depart Train Traction details & notes

Saturday 30th September 2023

Timperley   04:10   taxi
Manchester Airport T3 (MAN) 04:25 06:30 RK 3126 Ryanair B737-8AS G-RUKH; push-back 06:50, take-off 07:07 from runway 05L
Marrakech (RAK) 10:15 11:20   Landed 10:34 on runway 28, on stand 10:34 - pre-booked taxi
Marrakech 11:40 12:50 616 ONCF EL E-1470
Casa Oasis 15:21 15:31 'T1' Casa trams 003+009
Lissasfa Terminus 15:47 15:50 'T1' Casa trams 015+074
Abdelmoumen 16:12 16:15 'T2' Casa trams 096+095
Sidi Bernoussi 17:02 17:06 'T2' Casa trams 095+096
Mdaka 17:31      
Tachefine   17:37 'T1' Casa trams 074+015
Gare Casa Voyageurs 17:52      
Casa Voyageurs   18:30 622 ONCF EL E-1452
Rabat Agdal 19:21     arr 5 late
Overnight: Hotel ibis Rabat Agdal, Place De La Gare, Rabat. Today's photos.
Flight from Manchester to Marrakech, taxi to the station, train to Casa Oasis then do the two tram route extensions that have opened since I was last in Morocco in 2013. Then onwards to Rabat to overnight near the station.

Sunday 1st October 2023

Al Houria   08:46 'L2' Rabat tram 048+047
Hopital Moulay Abdallah 09:30 09:40 'L2' Rabat tram 047+048
Yacoub Al Mansour 10:30 10:40 'L2' Rabat tram 047+048
Al Houria 10:46     back to hotel for another shower, then check-out 
Rabat Agdal   12:50 1025 ONCF TGV 1204 via high speed line from Kenitra
Tanger Ville 14:10 15:00 2037 ONCF TGV 1206+1204 via high speed line
Kenitra 15:50 17:02 616 ONCF EL E-1476
Fès 19:15     arr 15 late
New passenger track for today: high speed line Kenitra - Tanger Ville
Overnight: Overnight: Hotel Ibis Fès, Place de la Gare, Fès. Today's photos.
Starting the day, before it gets too hot, by covering the Rabat-Salé tram route extensions opened since I was last in Morocco in 2013. Then by high speed train to Tanger and back to Kenitra (there's a flying junction north of Kenitra); and finally on to overnight in Fès. Morocco's 320 km/h high speed railway (the only such in Africa) appears to be very successful with the trains being well loaded on a basically hourly service between Casa and Tanger. The fully-loaded twin double-deck set from Tanger to Kenitra showed at least 310 km/h on its internal display, so I've now travelled faster by train in Africa than I have in the United Kingdom.

Monday 2nd October 2023

Fès   10:00 101 ONCF DL DH-424 dep 8 late
via Taourirt (loco run round) 14:11/14:34 (arr 21 late, dep 16 late)
Nador Ville 16:31     arr 13 late
New passenger track for today: Fès - Taourirt - Nador Ville
Overnight: Hotel Annakhil, 800 m / 11 min walk from Nador Ville station. Today's photos.
Just the one train today, from Fès to Nador; the line to Nador and beyond to Beni Ansar port was only opened in 2009. I was aware that trains used to run through to the port but these had ceased some years ago, and the published PDF timetables only show the trains as running to Nador, a few km before Beni Ansar. My planned move was to overnight in a hotel in Nador; and there are no useful hotels in Beni Ansar anyway. However the previous day I had found that trains were now running to Beni Ansar Ville, but only shown in the journey planner - not in the timetable; so I purchased a ticket to go down to Beni Ansar next morning and return on the train from there that I was intending to catch anyway from Nador Ville.

Tuesday 3rd October 2023

Nador Ville   08:13 139 ONCF DL DH-371 dep 33 late
Beni Ansar Ville 08:33 09:25 503 ONCF DL DH-424 (arr 22 late)
Taourirt 11:08 15:20 103 ONCF DL DH-426
Oujda 16:59      
New passenger track for today: Nador Ville - Beni Ansar Ville; Taourirt - Oujda
Overnight: Hotel Ibis Oujda (3 nights). Today's photos.
Starting earlier than originally planned, due to finding that there were trains through to Beni Ansar despite them not being in the PDF timetable, the first difficulty was getting onto the platforms at Nador Ville, as no-one in their right mind would catch a train for the few km to the end of the line - there being a reasonable bus service. The platform was barriered off, and whilst this would no doubt be removed when arriving passengers needed to exit the station, it was not obvious that they would be removed in time for me to catch the train. I asked the station staff (in French) and they found a manager who spoke to me in English and understood what I wanted to do - so I was shown to the lift down to the platform. Again, I spoke to the train staff before getting to Beni Ansar as I didn't want to get into trouble for taking photos so close to the port area and the international border with Melilla. Anyway, the line was 'ticked off'. Four hours in Taourirt were spent wandering around the town, sitting in the station building, having a coffee in the station cafe, and having an ice cream from the station shop. Finally getting the train to Oujda, this clearing my passenger track in Morocco. After checking into the hotel, which was close to the second station in Oujda, I had a wander up to the remains of the first station on the disused line towards Algeria.

Wednesday 4th October 2023

Oujda   07:15 special ONCF DL DH-411 (BLS railtour) dep 17 late
via Béni Oukil - Guenfouda 08:54/09:40 (loco run round) - Béni Oukil avoiding line - Naïma (10:37/11:28 loco run round)
Oujda 12:23 13:30 204 ONCF DL DH-422
Taourirt 15:15 15:20 103 ONCF DL DH-424 dep 44 late
Oujda 16:59     arr 39 late
New freight track for today: Béni Oukil - Guenfouda - Béni Oukil west curve
Overnight: Hotel Ibis Oujda.  Today's photos.
Today was Day 1 of the two-day Branch Line Society "Sahara Explorer" railtour. Today was supposed to be a run to Jerada power station, a branch line from Guenfouda, but this had been refused on unclear grounds only the previous day, after previously having been approved. So we just covered Oujda - Guenfouda - Naïma - Oujda, so doing all three sides of the triangular layout Beni Oukil / Guenfouda / Naïma. There was plenty of time at Naïma to view the adjacent remains of the platform on the long closed 600 mm gauge railway that ran from Fès to Oujda between 1912 and 1932, when it was replaced by the present standard gauge line. Also time to look around the station and station control room there. With not much else to do I took a ride with a few others on service trains from Oujda to Taourirt and back.

Thursday 5th October 2023

Oujda   07:15 special ONCF DL DH-411 dragging DH-367 dead
via Beni Oukil (08:40) - Guenfouda (09:24) - Tiuli tunnel (10:10 - 10:20) - Aïn Beni Mather (12:00 - 12:07) - El Fouchal (12:50 - 13:15) -Tendrara (15:40 - 15:56) - Bifurcation km 272.7 - sand clearance
Bouarfa 18:28     minibus to and from restaurant
Bouarfa   21:07 special ONCF DL DH-367 + DH-411
Oujda 05:15      
New freight track for today: Guenfouda - Bouarfa
Overnight: on train, but also Hotel Ibis Oujda for shower and breakfast.  Today's photos.
Today was Day 2 of the two-day Branch Line Society "Sahara Explorer" railtour. This was a specially adapted version of the "Oriental Desert Express" that runs occasionally between Oujda and Bouarfa. The Bouarfa line is around 300 km long and serves mines near Bouarfa, though there is no such traffic at present. The "Desert Express" has featured in TV programmes by Michael Portillo and Chris Tarrant, and also appeared in the James Bond film "Spectre". Several photo stops were made, and one session of blown sand clearance was needed after Tendrara. Lunch was provided from the "restaurant car" (the generator car with added facilities) and an evening meal was had at a location near the mines, which we got to by private minibus. Return from Bouarfa to Oujda was overnight, with most of the participants in couchette berths.

Friday 6th October 2023

 Oujda   11:35 20000 ONCF DL DH-420
* Fès  (17:26) 17:26   ONCF EL E-1477 arr 15 late/dep 21 late
Tanger Ville 22:45      
New passenger track for today: re-alignment approaching Tanger Ville
Overnight: Tanger Ramada Encire Hotel.  Today's photos.
Now heading to Spain for a few days. Scheduled departure from Oujda was quite late at 11:35 in case the train back from Bouarfa was delayed, which it wasn't; one train through to Tanger Ville; there is a significant realignment on the line into Tanger where the high speed line joins.

Saturday 7th October 2023

Tanger Ville   11:30   S4210 Supratours bus
Tetouan 12:30 12:41   taxi
Tetouan (TTU) 12:52 16:15 FR2388 Ryanair EI-DLI B737-8AS push-back 16:30, take-off 16:36 from runway 07
Alicante (ALC) 18:20 19:12 'C-6' landed 18:26 on runway 10; on stand 18:29 - bus
Alacant Estació d'autobusos 19:35       
New passenger track for today: none.
Overnight: Hotel Leuka, Alacant (3 nights). Today's photos.
Tanger to Alicante/Alacant with no trains involved! Service bus from outside Tanger Ville station to the "bus station" in Tetouan (a side road alongside the Supratours office), then a taxi to Tetouan airport (60 Dirhams, about £5), Ryanair flight to Alicante, then the usual C-6 bus to the bus station in Alacant.

Sunday 8th October 2023

Luceros     09:29 'L4' FGV tram 4241+4213
Avenida Naciones 10:08 10:23 'L5' FGV tram 4214
Porta del Mar 10:44 10:48 'L5' FGV tram 4214
Lucentum 10:59 11:11 'L1' FGV tram 4106/6106/4156
Luceros 11:20      
Alacant Terminal   12:50 Avant 9125 RENFE EMU class 104 set 18
Murcia del Carmen 13:43 15:00 Avant 9157 RENFE EMU class 104 set 18
Orihuela Miguel Hernández 15:15 15:49 Avant 9155 RENFE EMU class 104 set 14
Murcia del Carmen 16:08 17:10   RENFE rail replacement bus
Archena-Fortuna 17:40 17:53 IC 10033 RENFE DL 334022
Albacete Los Llanos 19:13 20:39 AVE 5382 RENFE class 112 set 021
Alcant Terminal 21:26      
New passenger track for today: Archena-Fortuna - Albacete Los Llanos.
Overnight: Hotel Leuka, Alacant. Today's photos.
A day out from Alacant. Time to cover Alacant tram routes 4 and 5 this morning, which share a unidirectional loop though the seaside village of Platja de Sant Joan, but with two different termini in Alacant: line 4 to Luceros, the main terminal, and line 5 to Porta del Mar nearer the old town. Then over to Murcia on the high speed line (and with time to spare to go out to Orihuela and back, for something to do) before the main aim of today - the broad gauge loco-hauled Sundays only Archena-Fortuna to Madrid InterCity train, which with its Fridays-only opposite working are the only passenger workings between Archena-Fortuna and Albacete. This requires a rail-replacement bus between Murcia and Archena-Fortuna. Presumably when the long-term Murcia engineering works are finished, trains will restart running through Archena-Fortuna to Murcia del Carmen. Back to Alacant from Albacete on the high speed line.

Monday 9th October 2023

Luceros    08:41 'L1' FGV tram 4108/6108/4158
Benidorm 09:53 10:07 'L9 FGV DMU 2505+2506
Calp 10:44 10:55 'L9' FGV bi-mode tram 500
Dénia 11:42      
Estación de Autobuses de Dénia   12:30   bus
Gandia 13:25 13:55 'C-1' RENFE EMU 464209/709
València Nord 15:05 15:30 'C-2' RENFE EMU 447147
Moixent 17:00 17:27 'C-2' RENFE EMU 447147
Xàtiva 17:51 19:43 IC 165 RENFE EL 252053
Alacant Terminal 21:02      
New passenger track for today: Luceros - Benidorm - Calp - Dénia; Xàtiva - Moixent; (Moixent) - La Encina via re-opened pre-1992 alignment (dark).
Overnight: Hotel Leuka, Alacant. Today's photos.
Another circular day out from Alacant. The long distance inter-urban tram/train route from Alacant via Benidorm to Dénia has evaded me for some time as it always seems to have been shut, in part, for engineering works. It takes three hours so a return journey is a waste of time: I took a bus from Dénia to Gandia, on the suburban Cercanías C-1 route out of València. Then on the newly re-opened Cercanías C-2 route out from València to Moixent, and back to Xàtiva. Finally for today back to Alacant Terminal on one of the electric loco-hauled InterCity trains.

Tuesday 10th October 2023

Alacant Terminal    06:55 EuroMed 1092 RENFE EMU class 130 set 39
València Joaquín Sorolla 08:55      
València Nord   10:25 'C-3' RENFE DMU 592 115+067 sets
via long curve - València FSL (reverse)
Buñol [1] 11:26      
Buñol [4]   11:45 'C-3' RENFE DMU 592235 set
via València FSL (reverse) - long curve
València Nord 12:49      
Xàtiva   14:18 '3' València metro
Aeroport 14:42      
València (VAL)   16:40 FR640 Ryanair EI-EMB B737-8AS push-back 16:43, take-off 16:55 from runway 12
Manchester (MAN) 18:15     landed 18:13 on runway 23R, on stand 18:18
Manchester Airport   18:53   Manchester tram 3103
Trafford Bar 19:39 19:42   Manchester tram 30xx
Timperley 19:54     Today's photos
New passenger track for today: La Encina - (Moixent) via re-opened pre-1992 alignment (daylight); Buñol platform 4.
Last day of this trip. Firstly from Alacant to València on a Euromed service (which use Alvia-type gauge changing Talgo sets) via the re-opened line between La Encina triangle and Moixent in better daylight. Then a fill-in move to see if I could get a train into or out of the rare bay platform 4 at Buñol on the Cercanías C-3 line towards Utiel, which I succeeded in doing; also covering the "long" curve between València Nord and València FSL which had been thought to be "freight only". Flying from València is easy, unlike many other Spanish airports, as it has a good metro service straight to the airport. Flight back to Manchester near enough on time; and I took the easy but slow tram route home as there were a lot of train cancellations.