This project was researched in 2005 by a team of experts commissioned by CIPRA as part of the Future in the Alps Project. The contents are not being updated.
* Project updated on 25 April 2007 according to information from the project contact persons * The Val Venosta railway line from Merano to Malles (a 60 km-long stretch) was closed in 1991 by Italy’s state railway company (Ferrovie dello Stato) and given over in 1999 to the Independent Province. The project included reorganising, modernising and reopening the line in order to boost commuter and tourist mobility in the region. A total of 61 bridges and 2 tunnels have been overhauled, 54 level crossings rebuilt (replacing the 85 originally located along the line), the superstructure replaced and the safety and signalling systems redesigned, the latter now boasting the best technologies available for a regional railway line.
The project was entirely promoted and developed by the Independent Province of Bolzano. Throughout the duration of the project, the local bodies through whose territories the railway line passes were periodically called in and consulted.
The aim of this project was to offer the approximately 30,000 inhabitants of the Val Venosta valley a modern railway service, not only to boost mobility within the valley itself, but also to promote sustainable tourism and agriculture. Over the years Val Venosta, whose strong point lies in a well preserved landscape, has developed a "soft" form of tourism, in particular cycling tourism. Val Venosta is also a great producer of apples (about 280,000 tons a year), which are exported both to Northern Italy and to Central Europe and which can, at least in part, be transported by rail.
Strengthening railway transportation in the area is a useful way of rebalancing the motor versus rail equilibrium. The Bolzano Provincial Council has set the target of 1.8 million passengers travelling on the Merano-Malles railway line by 2010.
The project is split into a series of activities, which include planning and implementing the interventions required to reopen the line, purchasing new rolling stock, managing the network and ultimately providing the service.
The project is split into a series of phases, which include the strategic decision to reopen the railway line, planning and implementing the project, purchasing rolling stock, planning the transportation service and providing the service.
The main result of this project is the reopening of the railway line, which had been closed for over ten years, by the established deadline. An average of around 100,000 passengers a month availed of this service during the opening months. This figure goes way beyond the most optimistic expectations, and is proof of the worth of the project.
The efficiency, service quality and costs of the project will be periodically assessed. No evaluation reports have as yet been written. As regards quality of service, passenger satisfaction is so far the only indicator available. Efficiency indicators register a 90% success in punctuality.
The local communities were initially wary of the whole project, but their fears were allayed when they realised they were being kept constantly informed as to the status of the project and made feel involved. In terms of the project itself, the main difficulties encountered lay in choosing the signalling, safety and traffic management technologies best suited to a line specifically conceived and developed to offer a regional service. Nowadays, most railway technologies focus on high speed solutions. The difficulties encountered were tackled by adapting available technologies and developing original solutions in line with the project’s objectives.
Reopening the line cost a total of M€116, M€91 of which were spent for overhauling and modernising the infrastructure and M€24 for purchasing rolling stock. The cost was almost entirely borne by the Independent Province of Bolzano (with a M€5 contribution from the Italian Ministry of Finance).