Simon Hindshaw began his presentation by pointing out that most people are familian with the French and German high speed railways, but what is not so well known is the fact that the Italians are also building similar railways.
He provided an overview of the planned railway network, followed by a detailed look at the two main lines now under construction and in particular covering some of the engineering solutions being found to various construction problems.
Currently work is being undertaken on upgrading the 180km route between Milan and Bologna to allow for operation at up to 300km/h (185mph). This became the third route to be upgraded, following those between Rome and Naples, and Bologna-Firenze, marking the passing of the half-way stage in a network eventually planned to reach 1,300 km.
These developments are concentrated around Italy's fastest growing cities, namely Rome, Naples, Turin, Florence, Bologna, Genoa and Venice, between them containing over 50% of Itaily's population. A forecast 75% growth in freight traffic over Italy's borders by 2005 also saw paths for freight trains included on the upgraded routes.
A joint-venture company, TAV SpA, is implementing the upgrading. A public-private partnership, it is owned 40% by Ferrovie dello Statto, the state-owned Italian railway company. The environmental impacts the work were considered carefully and TAV carried out an evaluation of environmental impact along all the route corridors and its findings and recommendations have been strictly adhered to during construction.
Some 160 billion lire (£65-70 million) was allocated to meet the cost of environmental protection measures along the 222km (140 mile) section from Rome to Naples. Rome-Bologna timings have been cut from one hour 38 minutes to one hour, and 40 min taken off the Rome-Naples timings, bringing them down to 1 hour 5 min.
In addition to the older "Pendolino" rolling stock, new ETR500 trains built by Gruppo Ferroviario Breda at its factory in Pistoia are being delivered for use on the new lines. They have 13 coaches and can seat 590 passengers and is capable of 300km/h (185mph).
Report by John Fender.
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