Liguria, Cote d’Azur, Costa Brava. All these European rivieras bet on railway transport to ensure the mobility of tourists and residents. An ambitious project of EUR 600 million begins on Cote d’Azur, the railways in Liguria undergo continuous modernisation and railway transport between Barcelona and Blanes is used by 40 million people every year.
The first two phases of Provence Côte d’Azur railway project are dedicated to the modernisation of the existing connection with an investment of EUR 600 million. Overall, there will be 15 years of works, including for the construction of a TGV rail station at Nice Airport. The objective of this ambitious project is to increase train frequency from 3.5/h, currently, to 6/h by 2033.
The transfer of Saint Augustin rail station in front of Terminal 1 or Nice Airport, scheduled for 2022, will be the starting point of a much more ambitious project submitted to public debate by 18 October. A huge TER-TGV railway station is scheduled to be operational at the airport at the end of 2026 – beginning of 2027, following an investment of EUR 200 million. It will be connected to line 2 of Nice tram and will be located close to a car park with 2,000 lots.
In order to improve the daily commute within the metropolitan areas of Marseille-Aix, Toulon, Nice and Cote d’Azur, French Minister of Transport asked SNCF Réseau (French railway infrastructure manager) to launch a public consultation for phase 1 and 2 of Ligne Nouvelle Provence Côte d’Azur (LNPCA) project.
New railway stations and more railway lines in Cannes and Nice
In Alpes-Maritimes Department, works will envisage the construction of a TER railway station at Cannes Marchandises, more platforms and railway in Cannes Centre and Antibes railway stations, the construction of a TER/TGV railway station at Nice Airport (four lines) and the re-systematisation of the railway network in Nice Ville and Nice Saint-Roch railway stations, SNCF Réseau says. There will also be works at the junction between Cannes and towards Grasse, la Var and Bouches-du-Rhône. Regarding Cannes – Grasse junction, a duplication of the railway is in plan, as well as the construction of an underpass to ease traffic.
The implementation of the first two phases of the project will double the number of TER trains between Cannes and Menton, but also in Toulon area, passing from 16 to 23 TERs per hour and direction in Marseille area and cutting by 15 minutes the travel time for 20,000 trains passing through Marseille railway hub to Nice and Toulon every year.
Regarding high-speed trains (TGVs), their number will increase from 1.5 km/h to 2.5 km/h between Marseille and Nice. Once the project is completed, it is envisaged that all TGV units would stop in Nice Airport railway station.
Marseille, second in France at bottlenecks
In Aix-Marseille, Toulon, Nice and Cote d’Azur metropolitan areas, currently comprising 90% of the population of Bouches-du-Rhône, Var and Alpes-Maritimes departments, the prevalent use of personal cars for daily commute has led to a saturation of roads and highways. Every year, in these three departments, people spend a considerable amount of time in bottlenecks: 40 workdays for a commuter between Aix and Marseille, 15 days between Toulon and Fréjus and 25 days for those commuting between Nice and Sophia Antipolis.
According to an Inrix study developed in 2017, Marseille is the city with the biggest bottlenecks in France (beside Ile de France, the Parisian region), while Nice ranks 10th in this classification. The social and economic studies ordered by SNCF Réseau within the project envisage a 15% increase of transport needs by 2025. Despite new infrastructure works (Marseille’s new tram line, L2, Toulon tunnel, three lanes for A5Z and A52 highways) traffic problems will get worse.
Therefore, in order to meet the mobility needs of citizens, companies and tourists and to contribute to overcoming the challenges imposed by climate change, it is important to favour less polluting and increasingly sustainable transport modes.
Under these circumstances, the development of the railway offer in Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region requires new investments.
With 2.5 km of railways to 10,000 citizens, the region has the most reduced railway network per capita in France. Marseille – Ventimilia railway, the backbone of the regional railway network, was built in 1860 for less demanding rolling stock and much more reduced train frequencies than current ones.
The main railway stations in Marseille, Toulon and the others on Cote d’Azur have reached their capacity limits. The offer of services is inferior to that of similar European metropolises and statistics indicate many more delays and cancellations of trains than in the other regions in France.
Improving the performance of the railway network between Marseille and Menton is a prerequisite for the development of services. Without reducing delays and increasing the frequency of train, the number of customers cannot be increased so that the train could become a credible alternative to the other transport modes, according to SNCF Réseau’s project.
Investments in Liguria rail connection
Another European Mediterranean riviera, other railway infrastructure investments. This is Liguria, in the north of Italy, and the railway which provides transport up the coast continues the above-mentioned railway on the French riviera: Ventimiglia – Genoa railway.
The railway link was opened as a single-track line between Genoa and Savona in 1868 and between Savona and Ventimiglia in 1872, most of its route stretching along the coast. Later, it was duplicated through the construction of a new line, parallel to the existing one, as the railway often crosses cities where there is no space for the second line. The new line has increased the maximum speed from 100 to 180 km/h.
The line crosses tunnels on most route: 61 km of the total 74 km between Ospedaletti and Finale Ligure is in the underground. The longest tunnel, which includes Sanremo underground rail station, is Caponero-Capoverde (13 km and 135 m).
The new railway station in Andora was inaugurated in December 2016 replacing the old railway station built in 1872. The railway station was opened as part of the project which envisaged the construction of 18.8 km of double line between Andora and San Lorenzo, valued at EUR 582 million. Initially, works were scheduled to end in 2009, but were delayed and halted in 2011. They were resumed in February 2014 after the resolution of a legal dispute between main contractors.
In 2016, Ferrovie Dello Stato, the Italian railway infrastructure manager, granted EUR 487 million to the technological upgrade of major corridors, among which Florence-Rome, Milan-Bologna, Rome-Naples and Genoa-Ventimiglia. The new technologies installed have led to improved regularity and frequency of regional and metropolitan trains and have improved the mobility system.
Last autumn, there was a two-week traffic break on Genoa – Ventimiglia and Cuneo – Ventimiglia railways, for hydraulic arrangements on Borghetto River, but also for the activation of the new Computer-Assisted Central Device (Apparato Centrale Computerizzato) in Ventimiglia railway station. This device ensures increased performance on the freight and passenger railways between Italy and France.
Works are currently underway to the new railway section of 32 km Andora-Finale Ligure. It is almost completed, including the new railway to the new Albenga station, but also the stops in Alassio, Ceriale, Borghetto S. Spirito, loano and Pietra Ligure. The final project has been delivered by Italferr to the Italian Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport.
Costa Brava would be suffocated without Barcelona – Blanes train
Further to the west of Europe, another riviera would not have been able to cope with mobility problems if there had not been for the railways.
We are talking about the famous Costa Brava in Catalunya and about Barcelona – Blanes railway link, the successor of the first railway in the Iberian Peninsula, Barcelona-Mataró, which has been gradually extended up to Maçanet de la Selva.
39.6 million passengers are travelling every year on this line which stretches along 95.1 km with 31 stations. On average, there are 102,214 passengers and 216 trains every working day. The railway section has connections with the lines of the regional services of Rodalies de Catalunya, with high-speed trains and Barcelona’s metro and tram systems.
There is a double line up to Arenys de Mar which goes along the seaside from out from San Adrián de Besós up to Malgrat de Mar, which makes it attractive from the point of view of both mobility and sightseeing. Although there are no major investments announced for the next period, the railway is permanently maintained to observe the schedule of trains, an essential aspect for the mobility of tourists and residents.
Green light for Sousse Metro
However, not just the European rivieras to the Mediterranean focus on railway transport, but also those on the other shore of the sea, in Maghreb, Africa.
Recently, the special delegates of the Regional Council of Sousse Governorship (Tunisia) have approved the metro project in Sousse, a resort which attracts many tourists every year.
The project will require a total investment of around EUR 152 million and will add to the current metro system in Sahel (Sousse-Monastir-Mahdia).
The first line is expected to link Sousse to Kalaâ Kebira and then extend to Enfidha, in the second phase of the project. The second railway will start from Sousse city centre to Kalaâ Sghira and Msaken. The third line will stretch on Sousse-ville – Sousse-south– Msaken route.
The members of the Board, reunited in the second session of the year, were notified about the preliminary study of the project elaborated by the regional department of Tunisia National Railways (SNCFT). The project will be presented to the Ministry of Transport to accelerate its implementation.