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CIPRA's point of view:Italian French Summit: modal shift gets red light

High-speed train: The modal shift cannot wait for the completion of expensive megaprojects such as Lyon-Turin. © atropo8 / flickr.com

The summit meeting last week between Italian leader Mario Monti and French president François Hollande covered plenty of ground - except for a rapid and effective modal shift from road to rail.
Expectations were high for the meeting on 3 December between Mario Monti and François Hollande. The two statesmen were to have substantially urged forward the building of the high-speed link between Lyon and Turin. The subsequent media statement from the Élysée Palace however simply stated that both countries had a strategic Interest in the rail connection and had signed an agreement. The police actions against the demonstrators received more attention in the Italian media than the actual summit results.
The agreement only concerns part of the new line, the 57-km base tunnel between Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne and Susa. No mention was made of how the costs, estimated at 8.5 billion euros, are to be divided between the two states and the European Union. The total cost of the line is expected to be approximately 25 billion euros, with the European Union to pay 40% of this. Rome and Paris have yet to persuade Brussels, however. Meanwhile, in the Susa valley, no priest could be found willing to bless the construction site.
CIPRA has been demanding for years that a modal shift cannot wait for the completion of expensive megaprojects such as Lyon-Turin or the Brenner Base Tunnel. Existing infrastructures must instead be modernised and passenger and goods transportation improved. In addition there must be functioning control instruments like an Alpine crossing exchange and a political framework that allows actual traffic costs to be billed. Only then will rail actually become preferable to road transport and offer an economically viable solution.
The Italian-French Summit contributed nothing to a lasting traffic policy for the Alps. On the contrary, Prime Minister Monti and President Hollande decided to open the safety tunnel of the transnational Fréjus road tunnel to regular traffic, thus doubling tunnel capacity - while doing nothing to increase the attractiveness of the rail system.
Source and further information: www.cipra.org/fr/presse (fr/it), www.elysee.fr/president/les-actualites (fr), http://torino.repubblica.it/cronaca/2012/12/03/news (it), http://torino.repubblica.it/cronaca/2012/12/01/news (it), www.nzz.ch/aktuell/international (de)