Terzo Valico, the third route through the Giovi Pass

The new Terzo Valico (Third Pass) is primarily aimed at improving the links from the Ligurian port system with the main railways in Northern Italy and the rest of Europe, in line with the strategies announced in the EU White Paper on Transport: with the transfer from road to rail by 2030 of 30% of freight traffic being transported over 300 km, and 50% by 2050, with environmental, security and economic advantages.

A fundamental part of the TEN-T Rhine-Alps Core Corridor  the most important axis on the connection between north and south which sees the largest amount of goods transported in Europe, crossing the most industrialised countries (the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy). Connecting the Mediterranean with the North Sea, the harbours of the Northern Tyrrhenian with those of Northern Europe –the Terzo Valico will mean that the current obstacles to rail transport between Genoa, Milan and Turin can be overcome.

The two existing railway lines actually do not have technical characteristics in line with European standards, which restrict the possibilities of moving freight trains of large size and weight between the port of Genoa and northern Europe. They are lines with performance levels which are directly linked to the construction standards of the time when they were made: the “Giovi line”, which was built in the mid-19th century has a gradient of 35 per thousand, with a lot of winding curves and is largely used by local passenger traffic and less so by goods traffic; the “Giovi Branch Line”, which was completed at the beginning of the 20th century, has a 17 per thousand gradient and is also used by long-distance passenger traffic.

Because of its technical characteristics, especially the gradient and size (width) of the tunnels, which are far superior to the existing lines, the new high-capacity line will allow lorries to be carried on goods trains (Rolling Highway), and High Cube containers. At the same time, with long-distance passenger trains also being able to pass, the Third Giovi Pass will mean that journey times between Genoa and Milan and Genoa and Turin will be reduced. 

The most important work 

Investment: 6.2 billion euros
Opening: 2022

Work timeframe: beginning 2012 - end 2021

Main technical characteristics
Length of the new line: 53 km, of which 37 km is in tunnels
Interconnection with the existing line: 18 km
Planned speed: 200-250 km/h
Maximum gradient of the line and the interconnections: 12 per thousand

The route

It is 53 km long, of which 80% is in tunnels, the new line goes through 12 municipalities in the provinces of Genoa and Alessandria and is linked to the South – through the interconnection at Voltri and the Fegino junction – with the rail infrastructure in the Genoa hub as well as port basin areas at Voltri and in the Historic Harbour and, from the Novi Ligure plain, to the existing Genoa-Turin lines (for traffic going to Turin and Novara - Simplon) and the Tortona - Piacenza line (for traffic going in the Milan - San Gotthard direction).

Starting from the Fegino junction and up to the Novi plain, except for a short open section at Libarana in the municipality of Arquata Scrivia, the new line will be housed in two natural tunnels (the Valico Tunnel and the Serravalle Tunnel). It will then run above ground up to the man-made tunnel of Pozzolo and then again come above ground up to when it joins the existing Pozzolo - Tortona line (the route to Milan); in the above-ground section between Novi Ligure and Pozzolo Formigaro, an artificial tunnel is planned in the direction to and from Turin on the existing Genoa – Turin line.

The Valico Tunnel, which is around 27 km long, envisages the construction of four intermediary access windows due both to construction requirements and safety. In line with the most advanced safety standards, the tunnel sections will largely be made with two tunnels, with the tracks simply running parallel and joined so that each can play the role of safety tunnel for the other. 

State of construction work

Construction work – which has been awarded to the COCIV consortium – is subdivided into six, non-functional construction sections.

Starting from January 2017 the fourth section has been approved and is being constructed:

  • the first section is 74% complete: this includes most of the road works which mean the impact of the construction can be mitigated (works vehicles travelling through the affected area) and the start of excavation of two of the four “windows” which will give access along the route of the Valico Tunnel;
  • the second section is 45% complete: this mainly covers the remaining road works and the completion of the excavation of the “windows”, as well as part of the excavation of the Valico Tunnel;
  • the third section, which was allocated in March 2016, is 12% complete and mainly covers the continuance of the Valico Tunnel dig and the tunnelling for each of the tracks in the Serravalle tunnel.

For the environment 

Governance of the correct construction of the work in environmental terms is carried out by the Ministry of the Environment and the Protection of the Land and the Sea (MATTM) through two bodies:

  • the Osservatorio Ambientale (Environmental Monitoring Centre, OA) which looks at the construction of the work from an environmental point of view and the impact on the land, overseeing environmental monitoring and showing every initiative that it feels useful and necessary;
  • the Commissione Speciale di Verifica dell’Impatto Ambientale (Special Commission to Check on Environmental Impact) which carries out institutional checks (VIA, PUT [VG1] etc.).

The ARPA (Regional Agencies for the Protection of the Environment) also play a technical-scientific supporting role to the OA and its special issue working groups. Specific conventions signed with the RFI set out the contribution the company makes to ARPA work on checking the correct implementation of environmental monitoring (also through on site inspections and parallel sampling, as well as through suggestions for possible integration or additional activity and/or corrective measures to implement in cases of criticality).

Amongst the areas of commitment to protect the environment, of particular relevance are those relating to:

  • reuse of excavated material: material which is not classed as refuse will be partially reused in construction of the new line, and in part is to be used on environmental reclassification particularly of digging sites which are no longer in use. Where logistical conditions allow, conveyor belts have been planned for to take excavated material directly to the site to be restored. That is the case, for example, of earth excavated from two of the “windows” in the Valico Tunnel: that leaving the Cravasco window will be taken by conveyor belt directory to the Castellaro quarry, which is located on the other side of the valley, while the earth from the other window will be moved to the former Cementir quarry, which is situated right in front of the opening of the window itself.
  • asbestos: if asbestos is found in excavated material, special procedures will be activated, defined by the Management Protocol of Asbestos Risk for the Terzo Valico – written by the Environmental Monitoring Centre's Asbestos Working Group and also signed by the Regions of Piedmont and Liguria and the Provinces of Alessandria and Genoa.
  • Hydro-geology: the Environmental Monitoring Centre, with the backing of the Liguria and Piedmont Regions, has set up a special Hydro-geology Working Group which has undertaken research on the streams which are present and those that are at risk of running dry. On this basis it has set down some corrective measures in the way the work will be carried out, and also monitoring procedures for the quality of the water points before, during and after construction work;
  • noise: noise-absorbing/reflecting barriers will be set up to mitigate acoustic impact on the residential areas adjoining the new line
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