Why make an App for Trains in Morocco

Posted: October 10, 2011 in Articles

I have been working on iPhone apps for a while now, and i have been thinking of working on an app for my own account for the past year, but i didn’t just want to make any random app just for the sake of having one on the App Store. I wanted to make something useful and I wanted to make it free and available to everyone.

For the past months i’ve been traveling back and forth to the UK and every time i found it very daunting to plan train journeys mainly because of the lack of access to information essentially when you don’t have a good 3G internet plan (which costs an arm and a leg) or WiFi access.

In the UK i use the trainline app which i think is pretty amazing for a free app and it does the trick. Plus it gives you the ability to save your favourite journeys. Still every time i got to Heathrow it was impossible to get a good cellular network signal, so the best way was to keep the cached timetable on the app and have it ready for when i need to get the train.

If by accident i ended up closing the app and losing the data that i preciously cached for my use when i arrived to London I had to start looking for timetables from scratch. Having favourites doesn’t save or cache in any data either and you will need an internet connection to search for timetables (again). So there you go trainline UK here’s a potential feature to include in your next app update 😉

However, in Morocco the things takes a completely different turn. If you’re taking the train to any airport you need to know where you’re going, at what time, and how to get there. Therefore a first and early visit to the ONCF website is essential for when you’re departing but if you’re coming back good luck finding any hot spots to connect to.

The funniest thing is that train timetables don’t change much and trains are never late if you’re departing from Casablanca airport (Med V) or Marrakech (The station is about 20 mins by taxi depending on traffic). So you can see how important it is to know exactly what time the trains depart. Personally it helps me decide whether i want to rush and get through customs or take my time, spend about 10mins arguing with the taxi driver to get a good bargain for my fare then grab something to eat as I’m usually hungry and don’t get served food on Ryanair flights.

It is also very important to have this sort of information to share with people who are visiting for the first time, as I get asked the usual questions about where to visit and how to get there and i sometimes find myself clueless about what to tell people and it’s embarrassing to say that you don’t know or just say something and people won’t have a clue what you’re talking about (You know what i mean). For instance i was asked about how to get to Essaouira from the airport in Marrakesh and i ended up sounding like i was reading a page from Wikipedia or a travel book (like Essaouira is about 200Km from Kech to get there you need to get a taxi from the airport to the coach station…).

So there you go this is how i came up with the idea to make the app and the reason why i spent the past two months working on it.

However, on a personal note i did it is because i enjoy/love working on Apps especially if it makes my life and everyone else’s life easier. I also think it’s the best way to keep the late Steve Jobs legacy going, and hopefully as developer inspire others. I’m planning to work on providing other (useful/Inexpensive/Ad free) apps for Morocco so keep an eye on this blog you can sign up to the Facebook page if you like to get everything from facebook.

The main features of this app are the ability to search from the Map and by picking your departure and arrival from the list of stations. That way you get to know where you’re going and how you can get there. The map gives you the ability to look at the train lines and whether you can get to your destination either by train (Red Pins) or coach (Green Pins).

The app itself is very light and uses about 3Mb of memory on your iPhone. It’s Bug free and won’t crash on you when you need it most. It has no adverts whatsoever and there are more updates to come and new features for future versions ahead.

I hope you’ll find it useful.

Amine Jaidi

  1. Nayem says:

    Great app. How up-to-date is the train timetable data?

    • Train times hardly change (Every 6 months or so) in the country so the timetable is up to date.
      We’re planning to introduce a faster process for accessing train times and some other cool features.

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