EUR 47 billion for rail projects in South Italy

Calabria and Sicilia railway networksItaly’s Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Matteo Salvini, has announced that an investment of EUR 47 billion will be provided to revitalise Calabria and Sicilia railway networks, in the south part of the country.

The minister said that in Sicily the railway system will benefit a EUR 13 billion investment which will support, among others, the construction of Palermo – Catania – Messina railway line, the rehabilitation and electrification of Palermo – Trapani line via Milo, the rail connections with the Trapani Birgi (in Sicily) and Fontanarossa (in Catania) airports as well as the modernisation of Caltagirone-Gela rail line.

In Calabria, an investment plan of EUR 34.8 billion is envisaged for the railway network, EUR 16 billion of which is already funded and includes EUR 15.9 billion for Salerno – Reggio Calabria line and EUR 230 million for technological upgrade of Battipaglia and Reggio Calabria connection, the “variant of Cannitello” and Rosarno – San Ferdinando line.

The Italy National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) is focusing the financing of the projects to remove of the missing links of the transport connection between north and south. The Calabria and Sicilia railway networks will be improved, electrified and developed to create the needed cohesion between the two and to boost productivity in the south region, thus reducing the north-south gap.

The Mission 3 Component 1 – “Investment on railway networks” of the NRRP consists of the improvement of high-speed / high-capacity network for faster rail services for both passenger and freight, the completion of the TEN-T corridors and other essential routes, with a special attention on the south region of Italy.

Of the EUR 27.97 billion investment for railway transport, 45% representing EUR 23.8 billion will be used for railway modernisation and expansion in the south.

According to FS Italiane business plan for 2021 – 2026, the NRRP target in the region for the high-speed rail projects consists of 69 km of new connections by June 2024 and 274 km by June 2026.

There are three high-speed rail projects to be implemented in this area including Napoli – Bari, Palermo – Catania – Messina and Salerno – Reggio Calabri lines.

The first phase of the construction of the 250 km Napoli – Bari line will be completed in 2026 and the project will be entirely completed after 2026. The project is divided into four sub-projects which consists of the construction of a variant to the current Napoli – Cancello line for a total length of 15.5 km passing through the Napoli Afragola HS station, the construction of the second track of the old line between Cancello and Frasso Telesino and Frasso Telesino – Vitulano for a length of 46 km and the removal of 25 level crossings, doubling the Orsara – Bovino rail section and the 47 km Apice – Orsara line section expected to be completed in 2026.

Rehabilitation and modernisation works are also planned for the train stations along the Napoli – Bari line including the deployment of new technologies and systems for traffic management.

The line will be equipped with ERTMS L2 allowing trains to run at 250 km/h.

The construction of the new Palermo – Catania – Messina rail line, on the Scandinavia – Mediterranean Corridor, is split into two main sections: Palermo – Catania and Catania – Messina.

The new 70 km Palermo – Catania line will be a mix of double (Fiumetorto – Lercara branch line and Catenanuova – Bicocca sections) and single track sections, while maintaining the existing connection. In March, the European Commission committed a EUR 3.4 billion funding to support the modernisation of 178 km of tracks between Fiumetorto and Bicocca, part of Palermo – Catania. The European Investment Bank approved a EUR 2.1 billion funding which includes a direct EUR 800 million funding to the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) and a EUR 1.3 billion counter-guarantee designed in conjunction with FS Italiane. A 50% counter-guarantee is backed by the InvestEU programme and enables the guarantees to be doubled to EUR 2.6 billion. When added to the financing granted to the MEF, this brings the value of the resources activated to EUR 3.4 billion. In addition, the project is also supported by the Recovery and Resilience Plan with EUR 1.4 billion.
When complete, in 2026, the project will reduce the current travel time by about 60′, connecting the two metropolitan cities in 2 hours compared to the current 3 hours.
The Catania – Messina project covers a double track on Giampilieri – Fiumefreddo as a variant to the current line for an extension of about 42 km. Compared to the single-track line currently in operation, parallel to the coast, the new route is developed upstream of the current one with the simultaneous construction of new service locations. This section is scheduled to be completed after 2026.

The entire 223 km line will be equipped with ERTMS Level 2 and is estimated at EUR 11.2 billion. The trains will run at 200 km/h.

In Calabria, the Salerno – Reggio Calabria rail project covers the construction of a new high-speed high-capacity line to be used by both passenger and freight trains connecting the north and south of the country.

The project is split into several lots including the Battipaglia – Romagnano which will improve Battipaglia – Potenza connection and completed in 2026, and Praja – Tarsia with interconnection with the Metaponto – Sibari line expected to be completed in 2030; Tarsia – Montalto and Montalto – Lamezia Terme (lot 3 and lot 4 respectively).

The 207 km Salerno – Reggio Calabria project is estimated at more than EUR 13 billion and when completed, the trains will be able to run at 200-300 km/h. The project will increase transport capacity and connectivity along the north-south axis and will provide improved connections to and from Sicily.

Upgrade and electrification projects

Also, for the Calabria and Sicilia railway networks the projects involve upgrades, electrification and the increase of capacity and train frequency through nine projects to be implemented.

On the Ionian railway line linking Sibari and Catanzaro Lido stations electrification is ongoing which also extends the Catanzaro Lido – Lamezia Terme Centrale cross-section line both of them being technologically upgraded to improve reliability and the management of the signalling systems.

In addition, other works are planned to include adaptation of works on sections of line to increase maximum speeds, technological upgrade to further sections of the line south of Catanzaro Lido, the electrification of Catanzaro Lido – Melito Porto Salvo line and adaption of Cutro tunnel.

As part of rehabilitation of railway network in Molise, in Southern Italy, FS Italiane is upgrading the 171 km Venafro – Campobasso – Termoli single and non-electrified line. Electrification works are ongoing and further plans for the project consists of technological upgrade with multi-station computerised control equipment (on Venafro-Matrice – Termoli section), the electrification of Termoli – Matrice section, and new track layout at the stations on the Venafro – Termoli section.
Palermo – Agrigento – Porto Empedocle upgrade is another project to be implemented to improve the railway network in the south. The project consists of increasing the performance of the 59 km Lercara Dirammmazione – Agrigento Centrale section of Palermo – Agrigento Centrale line, which will be upgraded to increase the axle load to allow heavier trains. This line also includes the 10 km Agrigento Bassa – Porto Empedocle section for which track upgrade, redevelopment, and technological improvement works are planned.

These two sections will be equipped with multi-station computerised control equipment (ACCM) and ERTMS Level 2.

The connection with Trapani Birgi airport involves two branches that will converge in a siding station close to the airport terminal. A 2 km rail section will provide connection between the airport and Trapani-Marsala and a branching off from the current Palermo – Trapani line (via Castelvetrano). This configuration will ensure the connection of the airport terminal both in the direction of Trapani and Castelvetrano and will promote rail-air intermodality.

Another air-rail project comprises the connection to Olbia airport covering the construction of a line which ensures the link with the national rail network. The connection also includes a 7 km direct link to the line existing Olbia – Ozieri Chilivani line.

FS Italiane will also carry out works to double the Decimomannu – Villamassargia line with the first phase between Decimomannu and Siliqua to be completed in 2026. The entire projects consists of the construction of a double track of 30 km, the removal of the existing level crossings and the installation of a a remote command and control system with ACCM and SCC-M technology (multi-station command and control system).

The construction of Bari Lamasinata new station will be designed for 750-metre freight trains which will benefit connection to the Scandinavian – Mediterranean Corridor. in the first phase, 7.7 km pass-through tracks will be constructed and two additional tracks to Bari – Foggia line, the installation of traffic management system at the new station. Under the second phase, the final 8.7 km long pass-through tracks and further 4.7 km sidings will be constructed. The project will increase the capacity and access to heavier trains while reducing the time and costs of the shunting activities.

Augusta bypass covers the construction of a rail connection between Brucoli and Priolo stations and a new station to eliminate freight trains to reach the city centre. The new single electrified track will reduce the length of the route by 4 km between the two stations.

The double tracking of Albairate – Abbiategrasso line is also included in the FS Italiane 2021-2026 commercial plan and includes the implementation of the second phase of the project. This involves the construction of a 5 km second track between Albairate Vermezzo and Abbiategrasso, part of Milano – Mortara railway line as well as the removal of the existing level crossings.

At Albairate Vermezzo and Abbiategrasso stations the track layout will be changed and the existing platforms will be adapted to standard track length and height. At Abbiategrasso two new tracks will be built for rolling stock shunting activities which will allow fast connections for suburban rail services.

New signalling systems will be deployed to ensure the management of rail traffic and increase traffic safety and capacity.

Modernised stations and hubs

Besides these projects, the Calabria and Sicilia railway networks will benefit improved and rehabilitated stations with the NRRP target for the south project targeting 10 modernised stations by 2024 and 54 stations by 2026.

This programme is split into two main projects consisting of upgrade, the improvement of the accessibility and intermodality, and the establishment of intermodal hubs and metro lines to support the development of sustainable mobility.

FS Italiane will improve accessibility and intermodality at 45 strategic stations by 2026 which will improve daily passenger ridership and will attract more tourists to use railway services. The works will be carried out for passenger buildings, platforms, shelters, underpasses / overpasses, installation of access facilities in particular for people with reduced mobility, as well as the development of stations’ surrounding areas.

The second component of the project includes large-scale interventions to develop transport hubs, for which Italy has already selected the strategic stations which include Messina, Benevento, Bari, Lecce, as well as the stations on the Napoli metro Line 2, to integrate heavy rail and urban rail connections which will increase the attractivity of sustainable transport. The projects will include station development works, creating facility for increased accessibility, energy efficiency for each station, and promoting rail hubs and urban stops as the most important points of the city for a fast and green mobility. These projects will be implemented by FS Italiane in collaboration with local authorities and will involve companies interested to redevelop the station and integrate rail connections to create an integrated and sustainable transport in the benefit of the society.

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