Don’t say railway tunnel, say better Mont Cenis tunnel. There are few civil infrastructures underway in Europe that are more fascinating, in terms of size, ambition and complexity, than that of the enormous gallery that is opening on the border between France and Italy to connect Lyon and Turin. So ambitious is it in fact that its promoters they assure Once completed, the Mont Cenis, also known as the Mont d’Ambin tunnel, will be the longest railway conduit ever built. Its dimensions are certainly impressive: a 57.5 kilometer two-tube, single-track corridor that aims to facilitate transportation in the Alpine region.
And it is not the only big figure in the project.
A railway tunnel? A big, huge, immense one. The base tunnel of Mont Cenis —also known by the reference of Mont d’Ambin— is a large two-tube, single-track gallery 57.5 kilometers long, a vast route that runs 45 km on French soil and 12.5 on Italian territory. Its objective is to help bridge the 65 km that separate the international stations of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne and Susa/Bussoleno and facilitate movements through the Alpine region, between Lyon and Turin, by removing vehicles from the road.
Is it the longest in the world? Easy to put it. Not so much stating it. Its drivers both in France as Italy They claim that yes, it will be “the longest railway tunnel ever built”, a categorical title but not without controversy, since the measurements of one or another infrastructure influence which parts are taken into account. He Gotthard base tunnel measure 57.1 kilometers and that of Brenner round the 55km between Innsbruck (in Austria) and Fortezza (in Italy).
With that figure the Brenner conduit would be slightly below Mont Cenis, but there is a railway variant south of Innsbruck, known as the Inn Valley Tunnel, which links with the Brenner gallery and takes the line to the 64km between Tulfes/Innsbruck and Fortezza, a distance that, its officials claim, makes it “the longest underground railway section.”
Are they the only tunnels? No. These three large base tunnels, Mont Cenis, Gotthard and Brenner, are part, together with those of Koralm (32 km), Semmering (27 km), Ceneri (14.5) and Lötschberg (34.6) of a gallery system planned to facilitate the journey through the Alpine region, an ambitious objective in line with that of the European Metro Line. The Brenner duct itself, of which we spoke to you just a year agowas part of a much larger corridor.
Is it an isolated project? Absolutely. The Mont Cenis tunnel is a particularly complex and interesting piece, but it is still that: a piece in a larger and much (very much) more ambitious puzzle. The subway is part of the new railway line for passengers and goods between Lyon and Turin, a corridor of 270 km which take place for the most part (70%) on French territory and which in turn plays a key role in the Mediterranean Corridor that crosses a large part of the EU, between Spain and Hungary, on a route of thousands of kilometers.
The line between Lyon and Turin is further divided into several sections: a cross-border section between Piedmont and Savoy and which has its “crown jewel” in the base tunnel of Mont Cenis, the Italian route that goes from Bussoleno to Turin and the French section, which in turn runs from Saint-Jean -from Maurienne to Lyon. To shape it, both countries have reached several agreements since the 90s.
And how much will it cost? The cross-border section between Italy and France is divided into a dozen operational points that will mobilize thousands of workers and according to TELT (Tunnel Euralpin Lyon Turin) its cost amounts to about 8.6 billion eurosa considerable amount of funds that are divided between France, Italy and the European Union, which co-finances a significant part of the bills.
The general investment of the new Lyon-Turin line be however Way to old. The tenders for the work on the cross-border section were launched in 2017, and the objective is for them to be completed by the end of this decade. According to the dossier of the tunnel published by those responsible, the main works of the project should be ready in 2030, although there would still be another two years of testing.
What are the latest news? Work is also progressing in the offices. A few days ago the TELT Board of Directors informed that it has given the green light to the signing of the contract to build the Mont Cenis tunnel in Italy, a commission valued at one billion euros that was awarded to a business group and that completes the award of all the works for the excavation of the 57.5 km of railway gallery under the Alps. On the terrain, Euronews pointed out In July, one of the seven tunnel boring machines that will be responsible for accelerating the excavation work through Mont Cenis had already been assembled.
But… Why a tunnel like that? Its drivers provide several keys. The main one, transform the current mountain line into a more competitive, fast and sustainable service. “On the Italian-French section, the historic line now does not meet international transport standards: it climbs the mountain with a slope of up to 3%, so the trains need up to three locomotives, with a 40% higher energy cost “, explained from TELTwhich also remembers that the old Fréjus tunnelinaugurated in 1871, has a diameter smaller than that required by international standards that are in force today.
The agency’s technicians estimate that thanks to the Lyon-Turin connection, more than one million trucks will be removed from the Alpine roads, which will reduce their polluting footprint by around three million tons of CO2 per year. With the new cross-border connection, including of course the Mont Cenis subway, they hope to boost merchandise exchanges, energize the region, reinforce the rail service, remove cars and trucks from the streets and, ultimately, offer “a tangible alternative to road transport”.
Does everyone see it the same? No. The international connection and its tunnel may be amazing, complicated, expensive, challenging, record-breaking… but to that long list of qualifiers add one more: in a way it is also controversial. Not everyone views the Lyon-Turin high-speed line favorably and proof of this are the protests that were organized last June in the Savoy region, where thousands of people They demonstrated against the new connection. Your main complaints: the ecological and landscape impact of the project, how it will affect water resources and inhabitants or even CO2 emissions that the works will accumulate.