From Frejus to highways, transport and all open dossiers

4 min read

The infrastructure emergency has not ended in the North West. On the contrary. After the reopening of the Mont Blanc Tunnel on 18 December, the order included the closure of the railway section from Ivrea to Aosta due to electrification works on the line and traffic problems, with a stop to heavy traffic and the reduced lanes, along the A5 Turin Aosta and at the Santhià link road. These are nodes that make connections to and from the Aosta Valley more difficult for those moving from Lombardy and Piedmont, for example. For the next few months, the latter region will suffer from the closure of the Frejus railway connection with France, while in the second quarter of the year, probably in the month of May, the second Frejus motorway tunnel will be inaugurated.

The importance of the Alpine passes was at the center of the speech by the CEO of FS, Luigi Ferraris, who spoke in Brussels at the “Europe and the Alps” meeting: «What happens at the Alpine passes is crucial for economic and commercial development of Italy, a country founded on foreign trade” underlined Ferraris. CEO Ferraris spoke about the fragility of the Alpine rail transport system, warning against an issue such as that of the reverse modal shift: freight services end up being diverted not to other railway routes but transferred to the road. This mechanism is particularly dangerous for the North-West area which already suffers from low rates of transport of goods by rail compared to the rest of Italy, but where the modal transfer of goods represents a strategic issue, given the two Ten-T corridors which Terzo Valico and Turin-Lyon are being built in this area (see the articles on the opposite page).

The open fronts

The dossier on the reopening of the railway connection to France comes alongside a long series of critical issues in the area, starting with the future of the Mont Blanc Tunnel – a double circulation tube, dealing with the need for long periodic closures to the next few years – until the complicated change of concessionaire – from Salt, owned by Itinera and the Gavio Group, to Stabile Sis, controlled by the Dogliani family – for the Turin ring road and the connection between the A4 Turin-Milan and the A5 Turin -Aosta (see the article alongside). A change of hands that risked leading to a closure of the motorway link, avoided thanks to the intervention of the prefecture and local institutions, the Metropolitan City of Turin and the Piedmont Region first and foremost. Commuters on the Piedmont-Valle d’Aosta route will also, for the next few months, have to adapt to the replacement bus service activated along the Ivrea-Aosta route, due to the electrification works on the network along the route.

Last but not least, the question of the Frejus railway tunnel is at the center of the works of the IGC which will meet again on March 14th to verify the works and the safety of the tunnel in view of the restoration of the railway line. The Commission has tasked the two countries with organizing a binational technical commission of experts to follow restoration work and make operational proposals. For Italy, Anna Maria Ferrari, from the University of Turin, and Francesco Maria Guadagno from the University of Naples are part of it.

The news

The opening of the second Frejus motorway tunnel – a project that has been worked on since December 2010 – represents an important step for the safety and resilience of the infrastructures in the North-West. In mid-March, Sitaf technicians say, “blank tests” will begin on the new tunnel to reach full opening to traffic about a month and a half later. The second tube of the Frejus, 13 kilometres, has a smaller diameter than the historic one and allows the division of traffic flows to and from France, increasing the safety of the infrastructure. We will therefore move from a two-way tunnel to a connection that provides one direction of travel for each tunnel, the new one for the vehicles going from Italy to France and for the historic tunnel for the flow arriving from France. The works were carried out by a group of companies led by Itinera while the managers are Sitaf and Sftrf, with a 50% stake.

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