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Lyon-Turin: Environment Ministry gives bad marks

Feb 22, 2012 / alpMedia
Criticism of the planned Lyon-Turin rail line is growing: environmental organisations have rejected the megaproject, as has the conservative UMP party in Savoy. The French Environment Ministry is now also expressing doubts.
Image caption:
TGV high-speed train: the multi-billion euro Lyon-Turin project is not primarily intended for a modal shift of goods from road to rail. © Mysterycrux / Flickr
A public enquiry on the "Turin Lyon" project is running until the beginning of March in France. The environmental organisations FRAPNA and FNE demanded its delay after the "Autorité environnementale conseil général de l' Environnement et du Développement durable" (AE) stated that the project dossier contained major flaws. FRAPNA and FNE had previously approved "Lyon-Turin". Critics of the rail line in particular appraise that goods traffic no longer has priority.

Will Chambéry suffocate in traffic?
The plan is for the Lyon-Turin stretch to be used for goods and high-speed trains. In order that high-speed trains can reach Chambéry, the aim is to build a tunnel by 2025 mainly for use by passenger trains. To prevent any bottleneck for goods traffic, a second tunnel is planned, but not as part of the initial building phase. It is thus questionable whether goods traffic still has any priority. Environmental organisations, as well as the AE and the conservative UMP, criticise the fact that there is no modal shift from road to rail. In "10 questions to the project carriers", Pierre Moreau of CIPRA France also demands to know how and in what timescale it will even be possible to transport 40 million tonnes of goods on this line.

Ecological and financial consequences remain unclear
In its report, published in December 2011, the AE pointed out major flaws in the Lyon-Turin dossier. The effects on groundwater and wetlands as well as the consequences for Natura-2000 areas are insufficiently addressed. Nor is there any evaluation of the project in socio-economic terms, i.e. "Lyon-Turin" is considered without taking into account other Alpine transit routes, such as the Gotthard tunnel. In Moreau's view, price is more important than speed for the transport enterprises: "The old line and the road tunnel, which is certain to be extended, are a better alternative. " The French Court of Auditors also recently issued a reminder to restore the competition between rail and road: in February it criticised the lack of economic sense of the piggyback transport between Aiton/F and Orbassano/F.

Regional traffic neglected
The "Lyon-Turin" project is costing 24 billion euros. Its completion date and use however remain unclear: the number of long-distance journeys by train is stagnating and goods traffic between Italy and France is falling. The modernisation of the line, according to experts, would be sufficient to transport up to 19 million tonnes of goods by rail, while the current figure is less than five million. On the other hand, the demand for regional traffic between Grenoble, Lyon and Chambéry has doubled in the last ten years. On the other side of the mountains too, regional traffic is a poor relation: for example in Chiavasso, where recently 20 regional trains did not run or were cancelled due to technical problems.
Source and further information: (fr), (fr), (fr), (fr), (it)