Turin–Lyon high-speed railway

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A map showing the Italian and international route of the new line (red and blue) compared to the traditional one (black)
A map showing the French and international route of the new line compared to the existing one

The Turin–Lyon high-speed railway is a planned 270 km (170 mi)-long, 220 km/h (140 mph) railway line[1] that will connect the two cities and link the Italian and French high-speed rail networks. Civil engineering work started with the construction of access points and geological reconnaissance tunneling,[2] with actual construction of the line initially planned to start in 2014–2015.[3] Funding was delayed, and the project was approved in 2015 for a cost of 25 billion, of which €8 billion is for the base tunnel.[4] Construction has yet to start officially, but the 9 km reconnaissance gallery that is being tunneled from Saint Martin de la Porte towards Italy is bored along the axis of the final tunnel and at its diameter.[5] Construction of the base tunnel is expected to start formally in 2018 and to take approximately 10 years.

The line is part of the "Mediterranean Corridor" - previously "Corridor 6" — of the TEN-T Trans-European conventional rail network, since its design speed of 220 km/h (140 mph) is slightly below the 250 km/h (160 mph) threshold used by the European Commission to define high-speed railways.[6] The new line will considerably shorten the journey times, and its reduced gradients and much wider curves compared to the existing line will allow heavy freight trains to transit at 100 km/h (62 mph) between the two countries.

The core of the project is a 57 kilometres (35 mi) base tunnel crossing the Alps between Susa valley in Italy and Maurienne in France.[7] The tunnel will be one of the longest rail tunnels in the world and it represents one third of the estimated overall cost of the project.

The project has been criticized for its cost, because traffic (both by motorway and rail) is currently decreasing,[8] for potential environmental risks involved in the construction of the tunnel,[9] and because airplanes would still, after including time to and from the airport and through security, be slightly faster over the Milan-Paris route.[10] A 2012 report by the French Court of Audit questioned the realism of the costs estimates and traffic forecasts.[11]

Preliminary studies[edit]

The worthiness of the new line has been the subject of heated debate, primarily in Italy[citation needed], but recently in France as well[citation needed]. An Italian governmental commission has been studying all the issues since 2006, after attempting to impose the start of works in 2005 near Susa (Italy), which resulted in a strong confrontation between the local population and police.[12] Works of the commission between 2007 and 2009 have been collected in seven papers (Quaderni) summarizing the results. An eighth paper focused on cost–benefit analysis was unveiled in June 2012 but criticized by some experts[who?] for contents and for publication timing.[citation needed] Test drilling have found some coal-bearing schists that are poorly suited for a tunnel boring machine, and Drilling and blasting will be used for the short corresponding section.[13]

The conventional line[edit]

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

Since 1872, a conventional double track railway connects Turin with Lyon via the high-altitude (mean tunnel altitude 1,123 m or 3,684 ft) double-track, 13.7 km (8.5 mi) long Fréjus Rail Tunnel,.[14] That line has been electrified since 1915, and its Italian side was renovated between 1962 and 1984 and again between 2001 and 2011.[15] This historical line has a low maximum allowed height, sharp curves that force low speeds, and a poor profile, with a maximum gradient of 30‰ which forces doubling or tripling the locomotives of freight trains, .

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

The first section comprises the Fréjus tunnel. Its lowest tunnel ceilings, highest elevation, sharpest curves, and steepest gradients, make it the limiting factor on the overall capacity of the line. Its maximum capacity has been calculated as 226 trains/day, 350 days/year,[16] using the CAPRES model.[17] The study foresees a traffic of 180 freight trains per day. This value has to be lowered to about 150 freight trains per day due to logistical inefficiency, since the traffic flows between the two countries are asymmetric. A similar analysis for the whole year leads to a total of about 260 peak days per year.[18] These conditions define a maximum transport capacity per year of about 20 million tonnes when accounting for inefficiencies, and an absolute limit of about 32 million in "perfect" conditions.[19]

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 (820 ft) of the historical line, and would object to the noise from late-night transits.[20]

In 2007 the current conventional line was used for only one-third of its total capacity.[21] This low use level is in part because restrictions such as an unusually low maximum allowable train height and the very steep gradients (26-30) and sharp curves in its high valley sections discourage its use.

Traffic predictions[edit]

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

Future freight traffic from analysis of current data and macroeconomic predictions are summarized in the following table (in million tons per year):[22]

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%

Promoters of the new line predict that it would about double rail traffic on the Modane corridor compared to the reference scenario (without the construction of the new line). It should be noted that traffic predictions for major rail infrastructures are intrinsically uncertain, with well-known examples of both overestimates (e.g. the Channel tunnel) and underestimates (e.g. the TGV Est) of even early traffic. Anyway, not all the experts[citation needed] 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 heavy tolls and 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 it would allow higher safety standards.[23]

The new line[edit]

The new railway line will have a maximum gradient of 12.5‰, compared to 30‰ over 1 km (0.62 mi) of the old line, and a maximum altitude of 580 m instead of 1,258 m. This will allow heavy freight trains to transit at 100 km/h (62 mph) and passenger trains at a top speed of 220 km/h (140 mph), and will also sharply reduce the energy used.[24] The construction of the high-speed line will cut travel time from Milan to Paris from seven hours to four, becoming time-competitive with plane travel for town-center to town-centre travel.[10]

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.[25]

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. It deems the new line useless and too expensive, and believes that its realization is driven by construction lobbies. Its 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 hypothetical presence[26] of uranium and asbestos in the mountains where the tunnel is 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[27] and in a wide number of specific documents and meetings.[28]

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. ^ Lyon-Turin project
  5. ^ "Manuel Valls inaugure le tunnelier Federica au chantier du Lyon-Turin à Saint-Martin-La-Porte". LTF. Retrieved August 1, 2016. 
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ "The Alpine tunnels". LTF. Retrieved 2 March 2012. 
  8. ^ http://www.bav.admin.ch/verlagerung/01529/index.html?lang=fr
  9. ^ http://www.lemonde.fr/pollution/article/2016/05/05/l-atlas-de-la-france-toxique-dresse-l-inventaire-des-sites-les-plus-pollues_4914519_1652666.html
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ [1], [2]
  12. ^ Quaderno 1 - p. 4
  13. ^ Design and construction
  14. ^ Quaderno 1 - p. 17
  15. ^ Quaderno 1 - p. 16
  16. ^ Quaderno 1 - p. 30
  17. ^ CAPacité des RESéaux ferroviaires, Rivier, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne
  18. ^ Quaderno 1 - p. 31
  19. ^ Quaderno 1 - p. 32
  20. ^ Quaderno 1 - pp. 33–34
  21. ^ Quaderno 1 - p. 35. Data are from 2007, while capacity was reduced by the 2007–10 modernization work.
  22. ^ Quaderno 2 - p. 18
  23. ^ Quaderno 2 - pp. 36-39
  24. ^ "The base tunnel". LTF. Retrieved 5 March 2012. 
  25. ^ Tim Phillips, "Six Members of the No-TAV Movement Sentenced for Crimes During Protests, but Two Acquitted", Activist Defense, June 5, 2013.
  26. ^ Commissione VIA (5 December 2010). "Progetto preliminare in variante - Chiarimenti ed integrazioni (Richiesta N° 11)" (pdf). Parte comune italo-francese. Revisione del progetto definitivo, CUP C11J05000030001 (in Italian): 21–22. 
  27. ^ [3] from Pro Natura Torino.
  28. ^ 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]