Turin–Lyon high-speed railway

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A map showing the route of the new line (red and blue) compared to the traditional one (black). Dashed lines indicate tunnels.

The Turin–Lyon high-speed railway is a planned 220 km/h railway line[1] that will connect the two cities and link the Italian and French high-speed rail networks. Work as up to now been limited to geological reconnaissance tunneling,[2] with actual construction the line planned to start in 2014–2015[3]

The line was part of "Corridor 6" – now modified and renamed as "mediterranean" – of the TEN-T Trans-European conventional rail network, which is not classed as a high-speed railway by the European Commission.[4] The new line will significantly shorten journey times and its reduced gradients compared to the existing line will allow heavier freight trains to travel between the two countries.

The core of the project is a 57 km base tunnel crossing the Alps between Susa valley in Italy and Maurienne in France.[5] The tunnel will be one of the longest rail tunnels in the world.

The project has been the subject of much criticism because of its cost, the currently decreasing traffic (both by motorway and rail),[6] the environmental risks involved in the construction of the tunnel and the supposed worthlessness of the new line (airplanes would still, after including time to and from the airport and through security, be somewhat faster over Milan-Paris[7]).

Problems about costs and the realism of traffic forecasts are also supported by a report by French Court of Audit, with some documents published in 2012.[8]

Preliminary studies[edit]

The worthiness of the new line has been the subject of much debate, before in Italy and recently also in France. An Italian governmental commission has been studying all the issues since 2006, after attempting impose the start of works in 2005 near Susa (Italy), resulted in strong confrontation between population and police.[9] Works of the commission between 2007 and 2009 have been collected in 7 papers (Quaderni) summarizing the results. An eighth paper focused on cost–benefit analysis was unveiled in June 2012 but criticized by some experts for contents and for publication timing.[citation needed]

The conventional line[edit]

Maximum number of trains per day which can transit on the old line with a possible passenger-freight solution (2010).

A conventional double track railway connecting Turin with Lyon has been in operation since 1872 and is now electrified, with renovations (Italian side) between 1962 and 1984 and between 2001 and 2010.[10] The line connects Italy and France via the high-altitude double-track, 13.7 km long Fréjus Rail Tunnel,[11] opened in 1871 and renovated between 2001 and 2011.

The characteristics of the line vary widely along its length. The Osservatorio (see References) divides the Italian part into four sections:

  • Modane - Bussoleno (Frejus tunnel and high valley section)
  • Bussoleno - Avigliana (low valley section)
  • Avigliana - Turin (metropolitan section)
  • Turin node (urban section)

The maximum capacity of the limiting first section (comprising the Fréjus tunnel, and with the highest elevation and steepest gradients) has been calculated as 226 trains/day, 350 days/year,[12] using the CAPRES model.[13] The study foresees a traffic of 180 freight trains per day. However, this value has to be lowered to about 150 freight trains per day due to logistical inefficiency, namely the asymmetric traffic levels between the two countries. A similar analysis for the whole year leads to a total of about 260 peak days per year.[14] These conditions define a maximum transport capacity per year of about 20 million tonnes taking into consideration inefficiencies, and a limit of about 32 million in "perfect" conditions.[15]

Additional traffic limitations stem from the impact of excessive train transit on the population living near the line. About 60,000 people live within 250 m of the line, and would object to the noise from late-night transits.[16]

The current conventional line is used for only 1/3 of its total capacity.[17] This is in part because its use is discouraged by restrictions such as its non-standard and unusually low maximum train height and the steep gradient (26-30‰) of some sections of the track.

Traffic predictions[edit]

Traffic prevision by LTF (red) and BBT (green), compared to real traffic (blue) and capacity of existing line (pink)

Future traffic from analysis of current data and macroeconomic predictions are summarized in the following table:[18]

Without the new line 2004 2025 2030 Annual growth
Alps – Total 144,0 264,5 293,4 2,8%
Alps – Rail 48,0 97,7 112,5 3,3%
Modane corridor – Total 28,5 58,1 63,8 3,1%
Modane corridor – Rail 6,5 15,8 16,4 3,6%
With the new line 2004 2025 2030 Annual growth
Alps – Total 144,0 264,5 293,4 2,8%
Alps – Rail 48,0 111,4 130,7 3,9%
Modane corridor – Total 28,5 63,5 76,5 3,9%
Modane corridor – Rail 6,5 29,5 39,4 7,2%
Heavy vehicles (thousand per year) 2004 2025 2030 Annual growth
Without the new line 1.485 2.791 3.121 2,9%
With the new line 1.485 2.244 2.447 1,9%

Predictions by promoters of the new line show rail traffic on the Modane corridor about doubling compared to the reference scenario (without the construction of the new line). Anyway, not all the experts agree on the necessity for a new line connecting France and Italy on the Modane corridor, since the old line has wide margins for increase in traffic. This result could be reached by some renovation of the rail infrastructure coupled with sufficiently high financial incentives for rail transport and/or taxes on road transport, rather than as a natural consequence of faster transit times and a lower price for freight shipping (due to reduced energy use thanks to a much flatter profile, but without necessarily taking into account the construction cost of the new line). The construction of a brand-new line would on the other hand make the older infrastructure fully available for regional and suburban services, which is an important consideration near the congested Turin node, and would allow higher safety standards.[19]

The new line[edit]

The new railway will have a maximum gradient of 12.5‰, compared to 26% over a significant fraction of the old line and a maximum 30‰ over 1 km. This would allow heavier freight trains to transit at 100 km/h (62 mph), as well as a 220 km/h (140 mph) top speed for passenger trains.[20] The construction of the high-speed line will cut travel time from Milan to Paris from 7 hours to 4,[7] becoming time-competitive with plane travel for town-center to town-center travel, though these numbers are also contested[citation needed]).

No TAV movement[edit]

No TAV protests in 2005

No TAV is an Italian movement against the construction of the line. The name comes from the Italian acronym for Treno Alta Velocità, high speed train. The movement's first demonstrations date back to 1995, but it became widely recognized during protests in 2005 and in the following years. Some No TAV protests have included clashes with police and disruption of highway traffic.[21]

The movement generally questions the worthiness, cost, and safety of the project, with support from studies, experts, and governmental documents from Italy, France, and Switzerland. The new line is deemed useless and too expensive, and its realization is believed to be driven by construction lobbies. The main objections are:

  • Low level of saturation on the Frejus rail tunnel and stable or decreasing traffic also on Frejus road tunnel
  • Economical feasibility in doubt due to high costs
  • Danger of environmental disasters
  • Concerns about health, due to the documented presence of Uranium and Asbestos in the mountains where the tunnel is supposed to be bored

Ideas against the construction of the new line have been summarized by members of the movement in a document containing 150 reasons against it[22] and in a wide number of specific documents and meetings.[23]

Critics of the No TAV movement, by contrast, characterize it as a typical NIMBY movement.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (Italian) Nuova linea Torino-Lione parte comune tratta italiana - Progetto in variante - Studio d'impatto ambientale - sintesi non tecnica 9-7-2010 (document PP2 C3C TS3 0105A AP NOT)
  2. ^ "Close-up on works". LTF. Retrieved 2 March 2012. 
  3. ^ http://www.ltf-sas.com/pages/articles.php?art_id=79%7CCalendario
  4. ^ Decision No 661/2010/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 July 2010 on Union guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network
  5. ^ "The Alpine tunnels". LTF. Retrieved 2 March 2012. 
  6. ^ http://www.bav.admin.ch/verlagerung/01529/index.html?lang=fr
  7. ^ a b "Dichiarazioni alla stampa del Presidente Monti al termine della riunione sui lavori di realizzazione della Tav tratto Torino-Lione." [Press conference by president Mario Monti]. Italian Government. Retrieved 9 March 2012. 
  8. ^ [1], [2]
  9. ^ Quaderno 1 - p. 4
  10. ^ Quaderno 1 - p. 16
  11. ^ Quaderno 1 - p. 17
  12. ^ Quaderno 1 - p. 30
  13. ^ CAPacité des RESéaux ferroviaires, Rivier, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne
  14. ^ Quaderno 1 - p. 31
  15. ^ Quaderno 1 - p. 32
  16. ^ Quaderno 1 - pp. 33-34
  17. ^ Quaderno 1 - p. 35. Data are from 2007, while capacity was reduced by the 2007-2010 modernization work.
  18. ^ Quaderno 2 - p. 18
  19. ^ Quaderno 2 - pp. 36-39
  20. ^ "The base tunnel". LTF. Retrieved 5 March 2012. 
  21. ^ Tim Phillips, "Six Members of the No-TAV Movement Sentenced for Crimes During Protests, but Two Acquitted", Activist Defense, June 5, 2013.
  22. ^ [3] from Pro Natura Torino.
  23. ^ For specific documentation in English see http://www.notavtorino.org/documenti/inglese/indice.htm


  • Quaderno 1: Linea storica - Tratta di valico [Book 1: Old line - upper section]. Osservatorio Ministeriale per il collegamento ferroviario Torino-Lione, Rome, May 2007
  • Quaderno 2: Scenari di traffico - Arco Alpino [Book 2: Traffic scenarios - Alps passes]. Osservatorio Ministeriale per il collegamento ferroviario Torino-Lione, Rome, June 2007
  • Quaderno 3: Linea storica - Tratta di valle [Book 3: Old line - lower section]. Osservatorio Ministeriale per il collegamento ferroviario Torino-Lione, Rome, December 2007

External links[edit]