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High speed: Milano - Bologna is next to open on Italy's Big T

01 Dec 2006

TRENITALIA has been operating limited services over the 300 km/h Roma - Napoli line for 12 months, stepping up the number of trains to seven a day each way from September 17. More are planned as the fleet of ETR500 trainsets with dual-voltage power cars is progressively equipped to operate using ETCS Level 2.

Construction on the remaining sections of the 'Big T' high speed, high capacity north-south trunk line continues steadily, a major milestone being completion in June this year of a 400 m long bridge over the River Po on the Milano - Bologna section. The Modena Est - Lavino section was opened in September, and the Lavino - Bologna section should be ready to carry traffic during 2007, with further segments of the 182 km line following progressively so that the route is complete during 2008.

About 80% of the civil works are now complete, including the twin 6 km tunnels needed to reach the centre of Bologna, which were finished in May. Apart from connections at each end of the line, junctions with the existing RFI network are being built at eight locations - two at Piacenza, two at Modena, and one each at Melegnano, Fidenza, Parma and Lavino. A single intermediate station is being built at Reggio Emilia.

Around 130 km of the alignment runs close to the existing main line or the A1 motorway, diverging only when parallel routes are not possible, for example where the line crosses the Po. The 36 viaducts total 38 km, the most significant being a 7 km structure at Modena where line speed will be reduced from 300 km/h to 240 km/h because of curves with a radius of only 3 440 m. Engineering details are shown in Table I.

Journey time between the two cities will be cut from 1 h 42 min to 1 h, and capacity will rise from 255 trains a day to 479.

South of Bologna the 78·5 km new line to Firenze is also nearing completion. No less than 73·3 km of this route runs in a series of nine tunnels, the longest of which is the Vaglia tunnel at 18·5 km. After 10 years of excavation and construction, all the bores are now complete. As with other routes on the Big T, design speed is 300 km/h, which should permit a Bologna - Firenze timing of just 30 min.

Napoli - Bari

The entire Milano - Napoli high speed route should be in service by 2010, and consideration is now turning to further projects. On October 30 the Ferrovie dello Stato Group announced the results of a feasibility study for improved rail services between Napoli and Italy's Adriatic coast. This envisages construction of a 147 km high capacity link that would run through Apice and Orsara di Puglia. Allied with double-tracking and upgrading of the Cancello - Benevento line, this would permit Napoli - Bari timings of around 2 h compared with 3 h 40 min at present. Roma - Bari would take 3 h against the current best of around 4 h 30 min.

Were this scheme to go ahead, con-struction would be scheduled between 2010 and 2020 at a cost of €5·3bn.

  • A junction at Melegnano will link the Milano - Bologna line with the existing RFI network
  • Major engineering works on the Milano - Bologna line include a 400 m bridge over the River Po
    Photos: TAV