SNCF Réseau to modernise historic railway to Swiss border

French infrastructure manager SNCF invests 55.5 million euros for the modernisation of the ‘Ligne des Horlogers’ (Watchmakers line) between Besançon and the Swiss border. From March 1 to October 31 2021, the tracks of the mountain line will be renewed and the signalling will be modernised. The works should enable to increase the regularity of the regional trains to Switzerland and reduce car traffic at the border.

SNCF Réseau will carry out major modernisation work on the Horlogers line, a century-old mountain line which links Besançon to La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland. The modernisation consists of renewing the track over 35 kilometres for 49 million, but also to make the Morteau and Valdahon stations accessible for everyone (1.5 million).The signalling will also be modernised for 5 million to allow the regional TER-trains (Transport Express Régional) of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region to continue to operate on the line to Switzerland.

This major modernisation project will require a total interruption of traffic during these 8 months of works. On the Horlogers line, which stretches 75 kilometres between Besançon and the Swiss border, normally 31 TER-trains per day run, including 15 between France and Switzerland.

Improving performance of the line

The modernisation project of the Horlogers line should improve the performance and attractiveness of the line between Besançon and La Chaux-de-Fonds, where trains currently run at a speed of between 50 and 90 kilometres per hour, depending on the sections.

The works will allow a return to the original speed, between 70 and 90 kilometres per hour, and the improvement of the regularity of the trains on the historic line. Next to this, it should encourage the modal shift of the public (frontier workers, local population, travellers and tourists) to the train to reduce car traffic at the border.

Track renewal

Preparatory work has started on 28 September 2020 to supply all the materials (rails, sleepers, ballast) necessary for the renewal of the railway this year. Also, the clearing along the track and developing of the various work bases located in Valdahon, the Hospital -du-Grogboig, Étalans, Moneau, Villers-le-Lac which will be used throughout the work was carried out. In 2021, the modernisation works will consist of:

  • Renovating the track of over 35 kilometres: 70 kilometres of rails, 60,000 sleepers and 85,000 tonnes of ballast
  • Reinforce and renovate structures (tunnels, bridges, earthworks and trenches)
  • Making the Morteau and Valdahon stations easily and independently accessible for everyone
  • Modernising the signalling to allow the TER-trains of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region to continue to run on the Swiss network

The modernisation of the line is financed partly by SNCF Réseau, the French state, the Bordeaux region, BFC ,and the European program Interreg, which supports cooperation projects along EU borders.

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Author: Esther Geerts

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