WORK is to start this year on a new rail link between Switzerland and Italy. Agreement between the two governments to establish a 17·7 km route by 2013 was reached in November, with the Swiss parliament and the Canton of Ticino splitting the SFr134m cost of the Swiss part of the scheme.

Over the 4·5 km section from Mendrisio to Stabio the existing single-track freight-only line will be rebuilt as a double-track route, with two new tracks laid over the 2 km from Stabio to the Italian frontier. From here a further 4·5 km of new alignment funded from Italian sources will take the route to Arcisate on the Varese - Porto Ceresio line. Upgrading of the RFI infrastructure is envisaged from Arcisate to Varese.

The new route is aimed mainly at international passenger traffic between Mendrisio, Como and Varese, with Ticino gaining good rail access to Milano Malpensa airport. The route will form part of the future Ticino S-Bahn and will also provide a strategic link between the Gotthard and Simplon main lines - this offers the possibility of a Lausanne - Lugano service taking about 1 h less than at present.