Opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel: benefits for Italy

The world’s longest railway tunnel opens in Switzerland

Rome, 1st June 2016 

The Gotthard Base Tunnel - the world’s longest railway tunnel and the most important Rhine-Alpine Corridor, between Rotterdam and Genoa, traversing a strong economic area that accounts for 16% of the European Union’s GDP - opens today.

The positive repercussions for Italy are numerous: indeed, the Gotthard Tunnel is an extraordinary opportunity to increase the conversion of heavy traffic from road to rail and, by crossing Switzerland, it interconnects Italy with some of Europe’s most economically important regions.

Below is the information published on the website of the Italian Ministry for Infrastructure and Transport.

Italy is modernising its network in order to transfer part of its freight traffic from road to rail, with the aim of transporting 30% of its freight by train in 2020. 

The country is therefore working on the four TEN-T Corridors that traverse it, from the mountain passes to the southern ports, in accordance with Italian Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Graziano Delrio’s reform of port services and logistics.

Italy is separated from the rest of Europe by the highest mountain chain on the European Continent and is therefore faced (supported by the European Commission) with a complex task involving tunnels and rail links pertaining to four different nations.

Benefits of the Gotthard Tunnel for Italy

The Gotthard Tunnel is the most important Rhine-Alpine Corridor, between Rotterdam and Genoa, traversing a strong economic area that accounts for 16% of the European Union’s GDP.

As far as Italy is concerned, the tunnel will make the ports to the south of the tunnel (Genoa and Vado Ligure) the gateways between the Northern Mediterranean region and the New World economy which approaches transportation via the Mediterranean. The connections between these markets and those of Northern and Central Europe will therefore be facilitated in the Rotterdam-Genoa direction.

On 1st June, at the Port of Genova Prà, PSA Singapore is inaugurating the first five maxi-cranes which will make it possible to unload mega-vessels carrying 22,000 containers (TEUs) for a total of two million containers per year. A port infrastructure, therefore, in communication with the railway one.
The new, fast and efficient rail link will enable trains to cross the Alps with minimum gradients and large-radius curves.

Train journey times between Switzerland and Italy will already be reduced from its start-up date on 11th December 2016, with longer routes and more services, and a three-hour journey time between Milan and Zurich will be achieved on completion of the Monte Ceneri Tunnel in 2020.

Italy has a priority interest in the development of the railway infrastructures that form part of the Rhine-Alpine Corridor, and in the European Corridors in general, due to their strategic contribution to the country’s competitiveness and economic and employment growth. 

Via the Rhine-Alpine Corridor, freight originating from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany will be transported south, and cargoes will also be sent from Italy to the north of the Alps, to the benefit of the Italian economy. In 2015, 26% of Italy’s total imports came from Switzerland, Germany, Holland and Belgium, with exports at 22.7%, the highest percentages.

Italy’s Contribution to the Gotthard Tunnel – What We Are Doing

On the Italian side of the Gotthard Tunnel, RFI (of the Italian State Railways Group) is making infrastructural and technological improvements to the railway lines of the Rhine-Alpine TEN-T European Corridor used by Alptransit. These improvements will make it possible to reap the immediate benefits of the works carried out and will be completed in 2020 in partnership with the Swiss. 

In 2020, once the improvements have been completed on both the Italian and Swiss sides, a capacity of 390 trains per day will be guaranteed, compared to the current 290, 170 of which to the Chiasso pass, 90 to the Luino pass and 130 to the Domodossola pass. 

16 RFI (Italian State Railways Group) construction sites are in progress, and resources of 3.3 billion euros are currently committed to the railway lines in

works by Italy relating to the Rhine-Alpine Corridor and agreed under the Italy-Switzerland MoU of 2012.

Works are proceeding in line with the agreements and with a view to the system being fully functional in 2020.

Arcisate - Stabio
Work on the Arcisate (Italy) – Stabio (Switzerland) railway line is 60% complete. These works (civil works, track laying and electrification) will be completed at the end of spring 2017 and activated in December 2017.

Luino Pass
Novara/Gallarate – Luino (single-track) line. Upgrading of the tracks and technological updating works (new computerised equipment for rail traffic management and control, and renovation of the safe train spacing systems) are in progress. The first of these were activated in 2015. 

The Laveno-Mombello plant will be activated in 2016. In June 2016, alteration works will begin on the tunnels to enable the rolling highway to pass through. Some stations will be affected by upgrading works. The line is, and will continue to be, used by mixed traffic: commuter services (30 trains per day) and freight (40 trains per day).

Chiasso Pass
Milan - Como - Chiasso line: works are in progress for technological upgrading of the line. 
The works for freight traffic will be completed by 2018. Technological upgrading will be completed in 2019.

Third Pass (Milan - Genoa high-speed/high-capacity line)
Italy has, for some time, been planning a strategic railway infrastructure, known as the “Terzo Valico” (Third Pass), to cross the Ligurian Apennines and, together with the Swiss system, complete the link between Genoa and the Ligurian ports and the ports of the Northern Range such as Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Antwerp and Zeebrugge.

The Port of Genoa is linked to the strong industrial regions of Piedmont and Lombardy via various railway lines. The “Third Pass” will therefore be the natural completion of the Ceneri-Gotthard project. Work has been accelerated with reported progress of 80% for the first construction contract and approximately 35% overall for the first three funded contracts. 
Resources of 3.5 billion euros are currently committed taking into account the fourth project (1.6 billion) which is subject to approval by the Interministerial Committee for Economic Planning (CIPE).

Other Corridors and Passes

Works are in progress in Italy on the other European corridors and passes.

Scandinavia-Mediterranean Corridor: Brenner
The activities are focused on the new Brenner Base Tunnel, with construction works in progress on the Italian and Austrian sides and on the shared sections. 
From its opening, scheduled for 2025, Italy expects an increase in capacity to 400 trains per day (from the current 290), improvement in traffic performance, more efficient trans-border management and a general reduction in journey times on the Fortezza (Italy) – Innsbruck (Austria) link.

3 of the anticipated 4.4 billion euros have so far been spent on construction of the Base Tunnel.

Spending on the railways lines of the corridor so far amount to 8.846 billion
Other investments include projects across Italy and in the South, such as the Alta Capacità Napoli - Bari (Naples-Bari high-capacity line) for which two mega-contracts have been authorised with an overall investment value of 1.4 billion euros.

Baltic-Adriatic Corridor and Mediterranean Corridor: Tarvisio

The Tarvisio rail crossing is now active. Infrastructural and technological updating works are in progress on the Tarvisio - Udine - Cervignano and Venice - Trieste links. The first stage on the Tarvisio-Udine line is currently being finalised, and the works south of Udine and the first stage of works to increase the speed of the Venice-Trieste service will soon begin on the line common to the two Corridors. 
More than 5,600 freight trains depart from the Port of Trieste every year. 225 million euros in funding are currently committed. Completion is scheduled for 2020.

Mediterranean Corridor: Turin - Lyon
The works involve construction of the entire transverse rail link that crosses the Northern Italy and include the new high-speed/high-capacity Turin – Lyon, Milan – Verona and Verona – Padua lines as well as the increase in speed of the Venice – Trieste line and the new line between Trieste and Diva�?a (Slovenia).

Italy expects the new link between Turin and Lyon to provide an increase in Alpine crossing services and a decrease in costs, reasonably estimated at around 40%. The work is going ahead: excavation of the geognostic tunnel that follows the axis of the Base Tunnel begins in July 2016 in Saint Martin de la Porte, and Italy and France recently signed an agreement for the cost of the works.

Declaration by the Italian Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Graziano Delrio

“For the Renzi Government, the development of freight transport by rail, as opposed to road, is a core objective: it means sustainability and efficiency. 

We are investing a great deal in the Italian network and the connections with the four European Corridors in order to make Italy the southern port of Europe, in the Mediterranean, as per her geographical position. 

By 2021, we want to have doubled the value of freight travelling by rail in Italy in 2015 and we are strengthening our port systems. Our country needs “iron therapy” and “water therapy”.

Construction of the Gotthard Tunnel is fundamental to the Rhine-Alpine TEN-T European Corridor between Rotterdam and Genoa: it means reduced journey times and increased quality, safety and train services. We are working hard on the rail links and, with the Ceneri Tunnel due to open in 2020, Italy is perfectly aligned.”