Turin-Lyon: former politicians urge Macron to avoid ‘tunnel without trains’ scenario
The French side of the project for the Turin-Lyon railway has been under the spotlight for possible significant delays in the construction of access lines to the tunnel from Lyon. In the latest development, 37 former French politicians sent a letter to President Emmanuel Macron asking him to intervene in the question.
The 37 former members of parliament and heads of local authorities in the Rhone-Alpes and south of France pointed out their concerns about the national attitude towards this project. “The Prime Minister is taking the risk of a tunnel without trains and condemning a massive modal shift from road to rail”, the letter stated. The risk highlighted by the letter concerns the delays in building access lines to the tunnel for Lyon.
The situation concerning the French side of the Turin-Lyon project started to heat towards the end of January. Back then, the advisory plan made by the Orientation Council of Infrastructure (COI) suggested the French government not to invest in access lines to the rail tunnel for Lyon in the medium and short term. The government is expected to make a final decision by June, as a spokesperson for La Transalpine, the official committee for the Turin-Lyon project told RailFreight.com.
The signatories’ demands
More specifically, the signatories are demanding that, by 2028, the initiative moves from a Preliminary Summary Project (APS) to a Detailed Preliminary Project (APD). During the APS phase, the technical solutions mentioned during the feasibility study are sorted. In addition, the essentials of the project are detailed, including the stages of realisation, the role of the stakeholders, and the materials used. The APS phase can include a provisional schedule as well as estimated costs for the project. On the other hand, the APD phase offers more detailed information and compiles building permit applications, and it would be the last step before the project execution.
If things don’t speed up, EU funds might be voided
This project has been declared of Public Utility already in 2013. In France, the Declaration of Public Utility (DUP) has a duration of five years and can be renewed once without starting a new investigation. The DUP renewal for Turin-Lyon was approved in 2018 and would last until 2023. “The expiration of the DUP would remove any legal basis for the project”, forcing a new public inquiry which would move the pawn back a few steps. Moreover, the signatories are urging the government to purchase the land between Lyon and the Alps where the access lines will be built before 2028.
Postponing these initiatives with no clear date in sight, which is what transpired from the COI advisory plan, might also lead France to miss out on getting funds from the EU to finance it. As the letter underlined, a financial contribution from the European Union for 50 per cent of the costs is already ensured. When it comes to the acquisition of land, the letter mentions that the costs are estimated at 150 million euros, half of which should be funded by the EU, if the country complies with the Union’s directives. Already in July, EU coordinator Iveta Radičová urged France to create a public structure to coordinate all parties involved. If these delays on the French side are not solved, there is a serious risk for the country of losing these funds.
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