Fortezza-Verona line

Fortezza-Verona line

Located in the centre of the Alps at the lowest altitude compared to the other Alpine passes (1,371 meters above sea level), the Brenner Pass has always been a transit and transport route of crucial importance for Europe. Today, the Pass is touched by a fourth of the entire transalpine freight traffic.

The current Brenner railway line has now reached a high level of saturation and the pressure of the community and local governments is equally strong in their pleas to transfer to rail the heavy traffic that today travels mainly by road along the Brenner motorway, with considerable impact in terms of air and noise pollution.

The intervention falls within the European TEN-T “Scandinavia-Mediterranean” Corridor, connecting Helsinki and Valletta, passing through Central Europe, the Tyrrhenian ridge and the main Sicilian cities, with a length of 9,400 kilometres.

The central alpine part of this alignment consists of the Munich-Innsbruck North Access Line, the Brenner Base Tunnel and the Fortezza-Verona South Access Line. The North Access line and the Brenner Base Tunnel have cross-border sections, whilst the South Access line is located entirely in Italy, along the Isarco and Adige valleys.

The Brenner Base Tunnel will extend for a length of about 55 kilometres between the stations of Fortezza (Italy) and Innsbruck (Austria), where it will be inserted underground into the existing bypass, also in a tunnel reaching an overall length of 64 kilometres.

The South Access line will extend for a length of approximately 180 kilometres between the stations of Fortezza (BZ) and Verona (VR) and will quadruple the current two tracks. The north end of the intervention consists of Lot 1 Fortezza-Ponte Gardena, which will mainly develop in a tunnel for a total length of 22.5 kilometres.

Paola Firmi was appointed Extraordinary Governmental Commissioner for completion of the works.

The objectives

To increase the quantity and quality of the railway offering, a new railway line is currently under construction to cross the pass, the Brenner Base Tunnel – under the care of the European company BBT-SE “Galleria di base del Brennero – Brennero Basistunnel” to which the Verona-Fortezza access line from the south will be connected, is being built by RFI S.p.A. in Lots.

Technological and infrastructural interventions will make it possible to increase the capacity of freight transport, which can be quantified in terms of 60–90 more trains per day. The reduction of the constraints due to gradients will promote the use of longer and heavier trains with an increase in the transportable load of about 20% for each train. In addition to commercial speed, the standards of traffic regularity and punctuality will be raised.

Expected benefits

The keystone of the new performances will be the radical reduction of the maximum gradient. In the Brenner Base Tunnel, this will be contained within 7‰ and in the Fortezza-Verona line within 12.5‰, whereas the existing infrastructure has gradients which, reaching 26‰ along the pass and 23‰ between Fortezza and Verona, limit train speed to within 80 kilometres/hour in the most tortuous sections.

With the new works, it will be possible to separate the freight traffic from passenger traffic and, amongst these, long-distance services from local ones, with enormous benefits for passengers.

Local public transport will be able to travel on the historical line in a more efficient, faster and rhythmic way, whilst on the new tunnel section from Fortezza to Innsbruck, being 20 kilometres shorter than the current line, the time needed to change traction will no longer be necessary, eliminating the current difference in traction between Italy and Austria to reduce travel time by a third for faster trains, from the current 75 minutes to 25 minutes.

On the freight front, the specialisation of the lines will allow an increase in traffic from the north entering the Verona junction, with a significant impact also for the Quadrante Europa intermodal road/rail terminal, increasingly key to the Italian and European logistics system as the intersection point of two European TEN-T Core Corridors, the Scandinavia-Mediterranean and the Mediterranean, as well as the two Brenner (North-South route) and Serenissima (West-East route) motorways.

To prepare the terminal infrastructure for the future, a project was also recently launched which, by upgrading the existing railway infrastructure and through new technologies, will allow direct connection with the Brenner route, as well as with the railway line to and from Bologna/Mantua/Modena.

225 km/h maximum speed
81 total kilometres
1.200 workers employed
4,926 mld € in investiment
Length from Fortezza to Verona
Approximately 180 kilometres
Maximum gradient
Design speed
200–250 kilometres/hour

Work progress status

Since the start of the works in 2008, over 136 of the total 230 kilometres have been excavated for the construction of the Brenner Base Tunnel.
  • Design
    Since 2018
  • Permits
    Since 2020
  • Tenders
    Since 2020
  • Start of work
    Since 2021
  • End of work
    Since 2026

Fortezza-Ponte Gardena - Lot 1 Fortezza-Ponte Gardena

Stages of progression: WORKS

  • Design end date: 2018
  • End date of the authorisation process: 2020
  • Date of tender publication: 2020
  • Start date of executive design and implementation: 2021
  • Work end date: 2029
  • Activation Date: December 2029

Bolzano railway bypass - Lot 2 Bolzano railway bypas

Stages of progression: DESIGN

Trento railway bypass - Lot 3a Trento railway bypass

Stages of progression: WORKS 

  • Design end date: 2021
  • End date of the authorisation process: 2022
  • Date of tender publication: 2022
  • Start date of executive design and implementation: 2023
  • Work end date: 2026
  • Activation Date: December 2026

Rovereto - Lot 3b Rovereto

Stages of progression: DESIGN 

Access to Verona - Lot 4 - Access to Verona

Stages of progression: DESIGN 

Lot 1

With Resolution no. 72 dated 27 July 2020, RFI approved the Final Variant Project of Lot 1 – Fortezza-Ponte Gardena. The call for tender was published on the EU Official Gazette in August 2020 and the award of the services is expected in 2021.

Lot 2

RFI has entrusted the design of the Bolzano bypass to Italferr, set to be the subject of discussions and interactions with the territory and its communities upon becoming available in 2022.

Lot 3

The preliminary design subject to project review was developed. Following the agreements with the local authorities, completion of the review activities is expected within the first half of 2021, with regards to the Trento city bypass (Lot 3a).

Lot 4

The preliminary design subject to project review was developed. In agreement with the local authorities, the review activities are expected to be completed by the second half of 2021.

Main technical characteristics

Brennero Base Tunnel

  • Two single-track tunnels, one in each direction, are connected to each other every 333 metres by cross tunnels.
  • Length from Fortezza to Innsbruck: 55 kilometres
  • Length from Fortezza to Tulfes: 64 kilometres
  • Maximum gradient: 7%
  • Design speed: 120 kilometres/hour for freight trains; 250 kilometres/hour for passenger trains

The Brenner Base Tunnel will consist of three bores: two main single-track tunnels spaced about 70 metres apart and connected every 333 metres by cross tunnels along with an exploratory tunnel interposed between the two main tunnels at a lower altitude of 12 metres.

Overall, the Brenner base tunnel envisages the construction of 230 kilometres of galleries and tunnels built by the European company BBT (Brenner Base Tunnel or, Brenner Basistunnel BBT SE), 50% owned by the Austrian company ÖBB Infrastrukture and the Italian TFB. The latter is controlled by Rete Ferroviaria Italiana S.p.A., as majority shareholder, and also includes the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, the Autonomous Province of Trento and the Province of Verona amongst the shareholders.

Project construction was divided into 6 Lots, brokend down as follows from north to south:

In Austria

  • Gola del Sill – the Lot near the Innsbruck north portal, with works currently yet to be started. The project mainly concerns works on ground level.
  • Tulfes-Pfons – the northernmost Lot in the works, currently under construction. This includes approximately 43.3 kilometres of tunnels, along with the 9.7-kilometre-long rescue tunnel that runs parallel to the Innsbruck bypass.
  • Gola del Sill-Pfons – the Lot falling between Gola del Sill to the north and Pfons-Brenner to the south, with works currently yet to have started.
  • Pfons-Brenner – a Lot involving the construction of approximately 50 kilometres of tunnels and an exploratory tunnel.

In Italy

  • Mules 2-3 – the largest section of the Brenner Base Tunnel, foreseeing the construction of approximately 65 kilometres between the Brenner and Mules and from Mules to the border with the Lot focused on the Isarco River underpass. Once the Mules 2-3 Lot has been completed, all excavation works in Italy will be done.
  • Isarco underpass – includes the section of the Base Tunnel which, passing through the base the Isarco valley, unfurling for about 6 kilometres, will underpass the Isarco river and the existing railway and road infrastructures (State Road SS12, Brenner railway and the Brenner highway).

Access to the south

Fortezza-Ponte Gardena section (Lot 1)

This project involves the construction of a new railway line, at approximately 22.5 kilometres, of which 15.4 and 6.3 kilometres respectively concern the two double-bore and single-track tunnels of Scaleres and Gardena that connect the Fortezza station to the Ponte Gardena station. The two new tunnels will be connected by a portion of the line in a viaduct over the Isarco River. The maximum gradient will be reduced from the current 23‰ to 12.5‰.

Bolzano railway bypass (Lot 2)

The railway bypass will make it possible to separate the flows of freight traffic from that of passenger traffic (regional and medium-/long-distance). The railway shunt will also mean freight trains will not transit within the town of Bolzano.

Trento and Rovereto railway bypass (Lot 3)

The railway bypass will make it possible to separate the flows of freight traffic from that of passenger traffic (regional and medium-/long-distance). The railway shunt will make it possible to by-pass the urban areas of Trento and Rovereto. For the Trento bypass (Lot 3a) the new line will originate in Roncafort, near the Trento interport, to connect to the existing line in Acquaviva after about 14 kilometres, of which about 12 kilometres is for the Trento double-bore single track tunnel. For the Rovereto bypass (Lot 3b), the new line will be mainly underground, with the construction of the double-bore and single-track Zugna tunnel, set to originate in Acquaviva to connect to the existing line in Marco, south of Rovereto.

From the north into the Verona railway junction (Lot 4)

The new railway line of about 9.5 kilometres will run partly alongside the existing line and partly in a variant of the route. The design is being revised and integrated in the terminal part, at the San Massimo junction, to improve the overall practicality of access to the junction.

Investment and schedule

The total costs of the Brenner Base Tunnel are estimated at around 8.4 billion euro, 40% co-financed in equal measure by Italy and Austria and 50% by the European Union.

The overall economic investment of the Verona-Fortezza line (for the 4 priority Lots) is approximately 5 billion euro.

The first excavation works for the exploratory tunnel of the Brenner Base Tunnel began in Aica in 2008.

For the start of works on the South Fortezza-Ponte Gardena access line, negotiations are currently under way for the integrated contract, which is expected to be completed within the first half of 2021, with a consequent delivery of services.

The first stretch of the Southern Access Line, which falls entirely within Italy, shall be completed by the time works end on the Brenner Base Tunnel.

The Brenner Base Tunnel website