ITALY: Infrastructure manager RFI has awarded two design and build contracts for the realignment of the Palermo – Catania main line to allow higher speeds.

Both of the projects are to be financed through the EU’s Recovery & Resilience Fund.

A €1·2bn contract for Lot 4A was awarded on April 27 to a consortium of Webuild (75%) and Ghella (25%) to rebuild the 27 km Caltanissetta Xirbi – Nuova Enna section on a new alignment. Of this, 3 km would be on bridges or viaducts and 20 km would be built in three tunnels: Montestretto (2·3 km long in a single bore), Salso (3·9 km long, twin bores), and Trinacria (13·4 km long, twin bores). Caltanissetta Xirbi station would be renovated, and an operational control centre built at Villarosa.

The second contract, worth €1·65bn, is for Lot 3. This was awarded on May 12 to a consortium of Webuild (60%), Ghella (20%) and Impresa Pizzarotti (20%), and it covers the realignment of the Lercara – Caltanissetta Xirbi section. The project will include the construction of eight tunnels over 22 km including cross-passages and access bores. There will also be 21 viaducts totalling 11 km, 32 km of road construction, and reconstruction of Vallelunga station.

The Palermo – Catania line is to be partially doubled and realigned and the maximum line speed increased to 200 km/h. It will reduce travel time between Palermo and Catania to 2 h from the current 3 h.

Work began in March 2019 on the first package of work between Bicocca and Catenanuova. Work is also underway on the Enna – Dittaino and Dittaino – Catenanuova sections.

The route modernisation scheme forms part of a wider programme to enhance the railway in Sicily. RFI is now tendering a further six packages worth €6bn; once these have been let, which the infrastructure manager expects by the end of the year, contracts will be in place covering upgrading or realignment of all of the Palermo – Catania and Catania – Messina routes.