ON JANUARY 29 during an intergovernmental summit held in Torino, French Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot joined Italian Transport Minister Pierluigi Bersani and Minister of Public Works Mario Nesi to sign an agreement setting out the immediate programme of studies to be undertaken for a new line between Lyon and Torino. According to the French Transport Ministry, this ’irreversible’ decision confirms the Franco-Italian commitment to building a 52 km Alpine base tunnel that is expected to cost Fr22·6bn for a single bore and open around 2015.

With an estimated cost of 371m euros to be met equally by the two governments with the aid of European Union funding, the 2001-06 work programme includes further geotechnical surveys, test bores and studies that should decide between building an initial single-track bore or twin bores that would increase the cost to Fr40bn. The final alignment of the bore is to be fixed by this summer, when Gayssot expects to receive completed project studies for the high speed line between the Lyon bypass and the French portal in order to launch a public enquiry. New tunnels to divert freight traffic from Chambéry are being studied, and on the Italian side a freight bypass to the north of Torino is proposed. For passenger traffic, feasibility studies have recommended a new high speed line from the Italian portal near Bussoleno to Chivasso on the Milano - Torino route.

Aiming to increase freight capacity on the existing Mont Cenis crossing to 20million tonnes a year by 2010, France and Italy are to establish a joint committee that will monitor progress by the national railways in establishing a rolling motorway service for lorries, due to start on a trial basis in 2002. The Mont Cenis tunnel is to be widened to B1 loading gauge for this service, which should be offering between 20 and 30 trips a day in each direction by 2005-06 according to the objectives agreed by the two governments. The western terminus of this service may be extended further into France once the Chambéry bottleneck has been relieved. n