High-speed train and Third Crossing, parallel destinies underground

Genoa - The high-speed rail line between Genoa and Milan is 50% complete, and the Turin-Lyon line 15% complete.

Genoa - The two projects have similarities, but also profound differences, and are perhaps even in competition, the Turin-Lyon High-speed train (on Europe’s Mediterranean Corridor) and the Third Apennine Crossing (on the Genoa-Rotterdam Corridor): both aspiring release valves for goods from northwest Italy, the two tunnels also share a troubled history, the result of bureaucratic delays and political opposition, both from the street and in government, between doubts about their real usefulness and promises to drive growth for their catchment areas. But now, while the high-speed train (which we have only been talking about “for 20 years”) was bogged down until August with uncertainty about its future, the Third Apennine Crossing (which first began over a century ago) has been making progress for a few years and we are already looking at complementary projects, in particular at the Po Plain line bottleneck, where capacity should be quadrupled. “Shortly after Christmas, the longest railway tunnel in the country, part of the high-speed Genoa-Milan line, will be about 50% complete,” the President of the Region of Liguria, Giovanni Toti, announced a few days ago at the end of a meeting with the engineers who designed the Third Crossing. “It was,” Toti added, “an extraordinary dig, in some months they even managed to move a whole kilometre forward under the ground. Sometimes we forget that the moles of the Third Crossing exist, but it is an enormous construction site that is growing and will change our lives.” Toti has certainly put pressure on the government concerning the infrastructure projects, also with implicit reference to the Turin-Lyon line: “In Italy,” he said, “we have built 790km of high-speed rail in 18 years; the Chinese have built 4,000 kilometres of high-speed rail in three years. These are the numbers in the world around us.” The Third Apennine Crossing is on the list of nine priority works for the Genoese economy that the President of the Chamber of Commerce of Genoa, Luigi Attanasio, delivered to new Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Paola De Micheli. Last summer, the Regional Councillor for Infrastructure, Giacomo Giampedrone, recalled that “the completion of the Third Giovi Crossing, for which the sixth lot was financed with €791.44 million (the total therefore amounts to €6.1 billion) is one of the most important and strategic railway infrastructure projects in the country, not only for Genoa, its port, and Liguria. The appointment of a single commissioner for this project and the Genoa railway junction (which has reached €620 million in investment, Campasso included) is an almost indispensable requirement for the completion of both by 2023.” The Third Crossing will be essential for connecting the port of Genoa to markets in the North. So far, the port has mainly served Italian regions by lorry. With the help of the train, it could reach the markets of Switzerland and southern Germany. According to the president of Ascom Confcommercio Genova, Paolo Odone, with the doubling of the Genoa-Ventimiglia railway line (another long-term project) the Third Crossing could also work in opposite direction, opening the way to France for northern Italy. And this would in fact be an alternative to the high-speed train to Lyon. For the French-Piedmontese project, the turning point has only come recently. To be precise, when the Senate rejected an opposing motion from the Five Star Movement, it opened a way forward politically to the start of construction. The current configuration of the line in Italy is the result of a participatory design that involved local authorities in the Observatory on the Turin-Lyon Line, established by the Italian government in 2006 after the violent protests in Venaus against the project’s first planned route. After 205 working sessions and 300 hearings with technicians and experts, a definitive and radically changed route was agreed to in 2013. The new plan was approved in 2015. To date, 15.5% of the 162km of planned tunnels have been built.