Napoli Afragola railway station
|Italian national railways (Ferrovie dello Stato)|
|Structure type||at-grade, crossing station|
Naples Afragola is an Italian high-speed railway station near Naples that was inaugurated on 6 June 2017, with regular traffic for passengers starting from 11 June 2017. The station, located in the city of Afragola, in the Naples metropolitan area, was developed with the intention of it being serviced by all high-speed trains on the Rome–Naples high-speed line, aside from those that do not start or finish at Napoli Centrale station, but instead operate over the Naples–Salerno high-speed line.
Napoli Afragola station was conceived of under a wider plan which called for the development of 13 new stations at various sections along Italy's existing high-speed rail network. As designed, it is to be operated as a major rail interchange for Italy's southern region, serving a total of four individual high-speed lines, three inter-regional lines, as well as a single local commuter route. On occasion, the station has been referred to as being the ‘Gateway to the South’ and is considered to be a major transport hub and regional gateway for Naples.
Responsibility for the station's development was held by Italian state railway operator Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (RFI). During 2003, a contract was awarded to architecture company Zaha Hadid to produce a design for the proposed station. On 4 November 2003, Zaha Hadid formally presented the station's design. As originally planned, the station was due to be opened during 2009; however, the project suffered several delays, some of which having been attributed to budgetary shortfalls. At one stage, RFI had awarded the €59.5 million contract for the station's construction to a consortium, but subsequent disputes over the price caused RFI to reissue its call for tenders. As a result, the construction activity was stop-and-go for a protracted period, lasting up to early 2015. During February of that year, the new construction contract for its delivery was awarded to the multinational construction firm Astaldi.
According to Filippo Innocenti, project director at Zaha Hadid, from the project's onset, the main station building was envisioned as being built on a large bridge positioned above all eight of the tracks and will have four levels with a maximum height of 25 metres (82 ft). Housing the station's concourse, this bridge area has been planned to have an area of 20,000 square metres (220,000 sq ft), as well as provision for an additional 10,000 square metres (110,000 sq ft). Placing the concourse directly above every platform has the advantage of minimising walking distances for passengers, while the adoption of the bridge format also avoided an issue of having given preference to the communities located at one side of the station over those on the other.
Efforts were also made to incorporate the station into the adjacent business park and the landscape, which was intentionally done with the aim of fuelling development of the surrounding area. The four-level station is to incorporate a generous area allocated to public amenities, retail outlets, and waiting areas while remaining spacious and as open as possible; the space above the main waiting are is to be occupied by a number of restaurants, bars and shores, in addition to a bus station and 1,400 car parking spaces. The exterior of the station is covered mainly by large glass panels forming winding shapes, which has been claimed by Zaha Hadid to invoke the image of a moving train.
Efforts were also made to capture the station's local context, such as the provisioning of good views of the nearby Mount Vesuvius, which was intentionally done for the benefit of passengers. The presence of Mount Vesuvius, which is a relatively active volcano, was a major complicating factor in both the design and construction of Napoli Afragola. The structure was required to conform with restrictive seismic measures. One such measure is the division of the building into different zones of no greater than 50 metres in length; this design allegedly enables the sections to individually move so that they can better cope with the event of a seismic emergency.
Considerable attention was paid to the station's overall environmental design, which was developed by engineering practice Max Fordham. Reportedly, a key objective of the structure was to have minimised energy consumption, favour passive operations over active interventions, and as little environmental impact as possible, in both the construction and operational phases. One major example of this design attention is the glazed roof, which features internal shading and acoustic baffles, limiting the amount of direct sunlight and glare on the concourse as well directing excess head away via purpose-built roof vents; this enabled natural ventilation practices to be used under normal conditions. While mechanical ventilation systems are also present in the building, such as the roof-level extractor fans, these are intended to be used only during the extremes of summer and winter. Wherever realistically possible, passive means of environmental regulation were used.
The active tracks, especially those of the Rome-Naples high-speed line also presented challenges in both the planning and construction processes, although the speeds on these lines were limited to 160 km/h (100 mph) while traversing the construction area. During the construction phase, the presence of the running high-speed lines split the site into two separate and somewhat disconnected zones; materials and equipment had to be transported between either side via an existing ring road, while an existing underpass served as a pedestrian crossing for the workers. In order to protect the high speed line from potential disruption during the work, a temporary roof structure composed of steel elements and a metal sheet topping, was set up around it. The building of scaffolding decks, overpass beams and other elements of the upper levels of the station, had to be built with consideration for the operational electrification system of the running lines, somewhat complicating the work.
The curved structural elements of the station building were built using technologies developed and previously deployed by Zaha Hadid. These were formed primarily out of concrete, which had been supported and shaped by prefabricated steel units combined with temporary moulds created by CNC-milling, allowing for complex shapes to be realised, along with considerable durability and strength. Building Information Modelling (BIM) methodology was adopted as a support tool by Astaldi, while the use of complete 3D modeling proved useful for transferring industrial process information within the technical office and to third parties.
Reportedly, 20,000 square metres of matte cladding was installed; this is claimed to be the largest quantity of this kind of cladding ever used upon a single building project in Italy to date. A total of 5,000 tonnes of steel were required for the scaffolding decks and curved roofs, while 200 km (125 miles) of cabling and in excess of 2,000 LED lights were installed across 4,000 metres of lighting tubes, which were integrated into the steel roof beams. Throughout much of the construction, there were typically around 330 workers on site every day, numbers eventually peaked at 700.
On 6 June 2017, five days ahead of its official opening, the first stage of Napoli Afragola was inaugurated in a ceremony attended by the Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who commented on its purpose: “Any great country needs great projects that are a leap forward...The new station at Afragola is the foundation of the infrastructure programme to promote economic development in the south.” Since 11 June, the station has been served by 36 high-speed trains each day; of these, 18 are Frecciarossas operated by the state rail company Trenitalia and 18 are Italos by the privately owned open access company NTV. These have been projected to carry a combined 10,000 passengers daily. Further services are to be added to the station, such as a planned increase to 28 trains in either direction, once additional infrastructure work in the region has been completed; phase two of the station is scheduled to be completed during 2022, to coincide with the opening of the Naples-Bari high speed line.
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- "Napoli Afragola - Italy’s remarkable new station." Rail Engineer, 28 June 2017.
- "Naples-Afragola High-Speed Train Station, Naples, Italy". Railway-technology.com. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
- "Afragola station delayed" (156). Today's Railways Europe. December 2008: 52.
- "Le stazioni per l'Alta Velocità (the stations for high-speed" (in Italian). Ferrovie dello Stato. Archived from the original on 12 December 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2008.