Multi-billion investment to upgrade this railway in Sicily
The railway line connecting Palermo to Catania, crossing Sicily from the northwest to east, will be improved with an investment of roughly 5 billion euros. New investments of 3,4 billion euros will be added to the 1,4 billion already established in the Italian National Recovery and Plan (PNRR) for this project. This line is part of the Scandinavian-Mediterranean TEN-T Corridor; Sicily is connected by ferry to mainland Italy, and from there the corridor stretches all the way to the Nordic countries.
The upgrade, according to Italian national railway company Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane (FS), will allow both freight and passenger trains to travel at 200 km/h. Moreover, the track between Fuimetorto and Bicocca, stretching for roughly 178 kilometres, will be doubled, significantly reducing transit time between the two cities from three to two hours. Moreover, FS pointed out that the upgrade of this section aims at creating the conditions to develop freight train traffic on the island. The project is part of a wider plan for the upgrade of the rail network linking the three major Sicilian cities: Palermo, Catania, and Messina.
A special kind of investment totaling almost five billion euros
The new financial injection of 3,4 billion euros has been approved by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and it is divided into two tranches. First, 800 million euros in the form of direct financing will be allocated to the Italian ministry of economy and finance (MEF). In addition, 1,3 billion will be added with what FS defined as “an innovative counter-guarantee tool”.
More specifically, 500 million will be allocated to Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo, 300 million is to be given to another Italian bank, Cassa Depositi e Prestiti. The remaining 500 million euros, as FS pointed out, are still to be assigned. Moreover, thanks to the involvement of the InvestEU programme, this part of the investment can be doubled and reach 2,6 billion. These funds, added to the 800 million for the MEF and the 1,4 billion from the PNRR, will total the 4,8 billion euros for the upgrade of the Palermo-Catania line.
The upgrade of the railway line between Palermo and Catania is part of the Italian plan to boost the rail infrastructure in Sicily. In their Industrial Plan published in July 2022, FS allocated 20 million euros of investments for the island, making it the Italian region with the highest investment in the plan.
One of the main project of this plan for rail in Sicily is the strengthening of the connections between Palermo, Catania, and Messina. For the Catania-Messina line, the track between Fiumefreddo and Giampilieri will be doubled and electrified. The investments for improving the links between these three cities amount to 11 million euros, as FS highlighted. The execution of this project is expected to start in 2025.