NOURDDINE RHALMI

Morocco 2020/21 | TRANSPORT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Nourddine Rhalmi, President Director General of Alstom Maroc, about dealing with the pandemic, Morocco's strategic location, and expectations for 2021.

What is your assessment of the industry's ability to navigate the pandemic?

No one was prepared for this pandemic, and for most of 2020, the transportation sector, worldwide, came to a halt. Even though there was a willingness to travel, we saw different countries closing their borders and confining people from certain regions. On our side, we had to think differently; it is becoming increasingly complicated to have a proper supply chain across different countries. We needed to create strategies to avoid being hampered by challenges similar to COVID-19. Many operators lost 50-60% of their traffic due to the restrictions put in place. We needed to take into account how we can create solutions and services that can make transportation safer for customers. For example, with air conditioning, we had to figure out how to stop the spread of the virus. There were a few proposed solutions for which our customers can make easier choices in terms of safety.

Alstom completed the construction of a factory in Fez in 2020. How important is it for Alstom's operations and projects in Morocco to be supplied by this local factory rather than importing products and services?

During the pandemic, we ensured that Fez was running normally, with all the safety measures put in place, and we did not have any interruptions along the supply chain. The Fez factory allowed us to strengthen our position in Morocco. We have been here since a century. Though, previously, everything for rolling stock, from locomotives to high-speed trains used to be made in Europe; today, everything linked to cubicle, electrical looming, and wiring are made in Fez. This also applies to all the products sold by Alstom in many cities around the world. This makes us extremely proud. Morocco is a bridge between Europe and Africa, and therefore our presence in the region is quite essential. To support these activities, we set up an excellent training programs in house and many partnerships with local universities across the country. To be noted, the strong support from the government to the industry brings competitiveness to European partners. Our products have become a reference; Alstom products made in Fez can be found in most tramways and high-speed trains. We are an exemplary of what can be done in Africa.

You signed a protocol with ONCF to become responsible for the new generation of locomotives as well as producing trams for Casablanca. What potential do these projects have?

Casa Tram – Lines 3&4: We won the contract, which was an international tender. We had the opportunity to propose exactly the product the client was looking for at the best price. We were able to meet the needs of both the client and end users. Protocol signed with ONCF: As part of the agreement, ONCF and Alstom will handle the maintenance of not only the new generation of electrical trains, but also the old ones. We will bring, together, our knowledge, expertise, and people. The more we know about how the operator operates, the better our product will be, and vice versa.

2021 looks to be a more exciting and prosperous year. What are Alstom's goals and expectations?

In 2021, we plan to maintain and grow our activities in Fez as per the plan formulated a year ago. And thanks to the acquisition of Bombardier, the Fez's activities will be increased. Another goal for this year is to start manufacturing tramway CitadisTM for Casablanca Lines 3 and 4. Our ambition is also to develop our partnership for maintenance activity with ONCF and continue the growth for that program. Moreover, we should maintain our current level of quality and on-time delivery to promote the made in Morocco while inviting foreign companies to invest in the country. The ideal is to create a strong industrial network. We want to support the ambition of the Kingdom of Morocco to promote the railway industries.