Station revamp strengthens Gotthard freight axis
Renovation has begun of the Swiss Bellinzona-Sao Paolo freight station, marking another key step for the future of freight along the vital Switzerland-Italy Gotthard link. SBB Cargo is investing around 100 million Francs on the project, which will last until 2020.
The expansion is part of the Swiss rail operator’s ZEB (Future Development of Railway Infrastructure) programme, which aims to increase capacity on the Gotthard axis. It includes a new 750 metre-long overpass track built specially for freight traffic at the San Paolo junction, which will ensure that timetables are met.
SBB says the Bellinzona-San Paolo project ‘is of great importance’ for freight transport on the north-south axis, and follows the long-awaited opening in December of the new Gotthard Basin Tunnel. Next in the pipeline is the planned opening of the Ceneri Basin Tunnel in 2020.
Construction work at the San Paolo freight station in Bellinzona stretches for about 1.85 kilometers. Works include the extension of the existing overhead haulage line for 750 metre-long trains, and various new infrastructue, railway sidings and new points.
The next phase will include the construction of retaining walls, adapting railway embankments, extending road underpasses and replacement of noise barriers. Freight traffic schedules will be adjusted during the work to ensure that services along the Gotthard link are unaffected. SBB Cargo has relocated its Bellinzona site to Biasca for the duration of the work. The whole work programme is expected to last until March 2020.
SBB said that the opening of the Gotthard Tunnel and, with it, the biggest timetable change – the WLV2017 – in the company’s history, had been a ‘major challenge for freight transport’. Theo Furrer, Project Manager WLV 2017 at SBB Cargo, said: “The start was a bit bumpy, but now we can be sure that we are running smoothly and that the system works. There are problems, but these are now solved, and after the first 50 days we can draw a good conclusion.”
Daniel Burgy, Head of Sales at SBB Cargo, added: “There were even customers who, thanks to the new offer, have shifted transport from road to rail.”