Okay, probably not too many people are interested, but information on this topic seems to be extremely hard to come by — I did web searches in English, Spanish, and French, all to no avail.
The Moroccan railway operator ONCF has, apparently for about a month, been operating a new rail line north from Taourirt to Nador and Beni Ensar (which is also spelled Beni Nsar, Beni-Enzar, Beni Ansar, Bin Anşār, بني نصار, and probably a dozen other ways). There are also some intermediate stops, but these are probably unlikely to be of interest to tourists.
There are three trains daily in each direction. All trains connect at Taourirt with the Casablanca-Rabat-Meknès-Fès service; some of the trains (I believe two daily in each direction but am not totally certain) also connect with the service further east to Oujda. Taourirt is not a big station and is not really designed for easily changing trains, but if you just hang around the station and follow everybody else, you should be fine.
For some reason, no one seems willing to admit it, but the Beni Ensar Port station—the very last stop on the line—is about a five minute walk to the border crossing with the Spanish enclave of Melilla. Just get off the train, walk to the end of the platform, take a left onto the road, and then go right towards the thing that looks like a border crossing. (There is no need to buy a Moroccan departure form from the touts along the road, as these forms are available for free at the border.)
When I called the place I’m staying in Melilla, they told me they believed that the trains only ran as far as Nador, and for some reason when I bought my ticket, they refused to sell me a ticket past Nador, but: the trains do run to Beni Ensar, you can easily go from there to Melilla, it’s easy, and it works.
Here’s an abbreviated schedule towards Beni Ensar:
Casablanca Voyageurs 22:30 06:15 12:15 Rabat Ville 23:34 07:17 13:17 Meknès 01:52 09:34 15:34 Fès 02:42 10:35 16:20 arrive Taourirt 06:13 14:51 20:01 depart Taourirt 06:30 15:20 20:35 Nador 08:17 16:59 22:18 Beni Ensar Port 08:35 17:15 22:35
And in the other direction:
Beni Ensar Port 06:10 12:05 19:30 Nador 06:25 12:20 19:47 arrive Taourirt 08:15 14:00 21:35 depart Taourirt 08:53 14:48 21:55 Fès 12:35 18:30 01:47 Meknès 13:24 19:24 02:43 Rabat Ville 15:45 21:45 05:30 Casablanca Voyageurs 16:45 22:45 06:30
You could also connect in Sidi Kacem for trains to Tangier (though a bus running along the coast would probably be faster) or at Casablanca or Fès for trains to Marrakech (though this would make for a very long day).
For further information and schedules to intermediate points, check with the ONCF website. Note that the French portion of their website is more frequently updated than the English section, but neither one contains a news announcement they now have a brand new rail line!
- mlcastle posted this