Explosions to limit risk of rockfall near Modane

The disrupted railway line connecting France and Italy through Modane is expected to be reopened on 31 July. The area is currently consolidated as there was a risk of rockslides. This was in addition to the mudslides that originally affected the track. Alternative lines are available for most urgent train traffic.

This update was given on Thursday evening by RFC North Sea Mediterranean, which is overseeing the contingency management in this matter. A mudslide blocked the railway track in Maurienne valley on 2 July. On Thursday 4 July the French infrastructure manager SNCF called for a complete line closure until 15 August. The line is vital for traffic between France and Italy.

Best /worst case

The RFC explains that the ‘15 August’ date is a forecast in the worst scenario. The end of July was the aim in the best case. The authorities belief that based on the current situation, this deadline will be reached, despite the extra works carried out to prevent rockfall.

“Works on the railway line are going on and the cleaning and consolidation of the line is almost finalised. But, following previous storms some weeks ago in the same area other rockslides took place, 7km from the mudslide on the Modane railway line. Following these rockslides, the regional authority had requested to set off precautionary explosions in order to consolidate the environment. Those works took place on Monday the 15 of July”, the RFC wrote on its website yesterday evening.

“SNCF Réseau is now awaiting more information from experts of the regional authority to decide whether further explosions need to be set off in order to avoid any unstable rock fall. Those experts should come back to them on 24t/25 July.”

Reroutings

Currently, three alternative routes are proposed to railway undertakings. The first is Marseille – Ventimiglia – Genova. This is the only rerouting done through France and has limited capacity.

“To offer alternatives aligned with the magnitude of the demand, additional capacity was found through Switzerland, thanks to the support of CFF Infra. These routes are Geneve – Domodossa/Chiasso and Basel – Domodossola/Chiasso. These routes are longer than the actual route via Modane. They pass through the Alps, where the connections are limited”, the RFC informed.

Contingency management

The alternative routes are part of the ‘off-the-shelf re-routing options’ options’ as defined in the Handbook for International Contingency Management. This handbook was written in response to the Rastatt disaster, when a vital line on the Rhine-Alpine corridor was closed for 7 weeks in the summer of 2017. According to this manual, a predefined rerouting overview is available for for each RFC.

However, the alternative routes do not prevent train cancellations. We learned right after the incident took place that railway undertakings and operators had cancelled most of their journeys. “The alternative routes are not necessarily designed for the same traffic volumes as the principal routes. The available capacity at the moment is available for the most urgent shipments”, the RFC commented. In the next few days infrastructure managers and railway undertakings will come together to discuss other possible routes.

Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is editor of RailFreight.com, online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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