SPECTATORS arriving in northern Italy for this month's Winter Olympics may get off to a flying start when Trenitalia opens the Torino - Novara section of its high speed line between Torino and Milano.

All being well, trains are due to start running over the new line from February 1. Direct services using ETR500 trainsets are to run from Milano Malpensa airport over a Ferrovie Nord Milano route, reaching the new line at Novara, from where they can make a quick dash over the 85 km of brand-new track to Torino. Journey time is expected to be around 1h 35min, not least because the single-track FNM route is not designed for high speed running, while trains will need to reverse at Novara to gain access to the new line.

In mid-January the number and frequency of services over the new line was not certain, but earlier RFI Chief Executive Officer Mauro Moretti was confident that 'all elements are ready' (RG 12.5 p763). Whether the line will have to confront the same problems as the Roma - Napoli line (below) will be known later this month.

The Torino - Novara line is built to the same standards as Italy's other high speed lines with 25 kV 50Hz electrification rather than the 3 kV DC power supply used on the main network. Equipped with Level 2 ETCS, the route is intended to permit trains to operate at 300 km/h at 21/2min headways.

Civil engineering work was carried out by Fiat-CavToMi as general contractor, with electrical and other equipment supplied by Consorzio Saturno, which includes Alstom Ferroviaria, Alstom Transport Systems, Ansaldo Segnalamento Ferroviario, Ansaldo Trasporti Sistemi Ferroviari, Balfour Beatty Rail and Sirti. A CTC office is located in Torino, and the complete line will have 14 computer-based interlockings. CCTV is provided to detect intruders, and there is also a permanent way monitoring system.

The alignment runs generally through flat terrain, but the existence of numerous roads favoured elevation of long sections on to embankments with frequent bridges. There are 285 structures along the whole route, including 28 viaducts and 30 cut-and-cover tunnels; the tunnels total 4·4 km, of which the longest is 1·5 km. The longest viaduct is a 39-span viaduct stretching for 1·4 km across the River Dora.

Minimum curve radius is 4540m and steepest grade 1·5%. Conventional ballasted track is used throughout.

Last October, an ETR500 trainset established an Italian speed record of 350·7 km/h during trials on the new line.

The remaining 40 km of the line from Novara to Milano is not expected to be complete until 2009, when journey time for the Torino - Milano trip is expected to be just 50min. Cost of the whole project is put at €6·8bn, of which the Torino - Novara section accounts for €4·7bn.

Cautious start on Roma - Napoli

COMMERCIAL services were launched with little fanfare over the high speed line between Roma and Napoli on December 22. Given that only one train a day was running in each direction, the low-key start was certainly prudent.

Scheduled journey time in each direction was 1h 27min, with the southbound service leaving Roma at 08.25 and the northbound train departing Napoli at 18.10. Reports in January indicated that the ETR500 trainsets diagrammed for the trips were frequently reaching their destination 10min or more ahead of schedule. The reports confirmed that the trains were operating at 300 km/h.

Trains started and finished in Roma and Napoli, with no through service to or from Firenze or Milano. Trenitalia offered free travel until January 22.

Around five test trains a day continued to run in each direction during December and early January as engineers continued to check and monitor the performance of the Level 2 ETCS equipment.

  • CAPTION: ABOVE: A demonstration trip reaching 300 km/h was staged on the Torino - Novara line after the EurailSpeed event last November. Trackwork is to a conventional ballasted design with monobloc concrete sleepers
  • RIGHT: Engineers check the performance of an ETR500 test train at 300 km/h
  • CAPTION: Three types of noise barrier have been erected beside the Torino - Novara line. Continuous barriers are broken up every few hundred metres by a translucent section
  • CAPTION: The crew of a refurbished Eurostar Italia ETR500 trainset celebrate the arrival of Train 9605 from Roma at Napoli on December 22. This was the first train to carry ordinary passengers over the new line