No trains for days between France and Italy after Alps rock slide
No trains will run between France and Italy until at least Wednesday, states the SNCF. This is due to a significant avalanche in the Maurienne valley in the French Alps, near the border with Italy which took place on Sunday: fallen rocks are now blocking the railway and roads in the area.
An substantial rockfall occurred in the commune of Saint-André, between Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne and Modane, in Savoie, France, at around 5h15 PM on Sunday 27 August, according to the department’s prefecture. Rocks with a volume of 700 cubic metres have been lying on the tracks and on ‘Route Départementale’ 1006 since. A safety barrier was in place but was not strong enough to stop the rockfall. France Bleu Savoie reports that no lives were lost.
Immediately after the incident, French rail infrastructure manager SNCF Réseau requested that trains be rerouted to their original stations. Rail traffic between France and Italy at the Maurienne level is now interrupted “at least until Wednesday 30 August inclusive”, according to the SNCF, but the company indicated to AFP that they expect it to take longer. The landslide has interrupted train services between France and Italy on the Chambéry-Turin line, as well as TER trains in the Maurienne valley, according to SNCF. For TER trains, the terminus is now Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, and for TER coaches, the last stop is Saint-Michel-Valloire. No replacement buses are planned. A number of roads are also blocked.
According to French transport minister Clement Beaune, everything is being done to make the railway and roads accessible to traffic again as soon as possible: “Our public services are mobilised to restore road and rail traffic as quickly as possible. Everyone’s safety is an absolute priority”, he posted on X (formerly Twitter), this morning. According to him, “a return to normal will take several days”.
Après l’éboulement massif intervenu hier en #Maurienne, nos services publics sont mobilisés pour rétablir au plus vite la circulation routière et ferroviaire. Priorité absolue à la sécurité de tous ; un retour à la normale nécessitera plusieurs jours. pic.twitter.com/vcVPjzzUf3
— Clement Beaune (@CBeaune) August 27, 2023
Around August 23rd, approximately 10,000 cubic metres of rock descended from the northern side of the Aiguille du Midi mountain. According to France Info, the cause of these rockfalls is linked to the permafrost. Global warming has led to the thawing of this formerly year-round frozen ice during the summer, causing it to lose its binding effect on the rocks. This situation has rendered the rock surfaces more delicate and prone to collapse.
Research from the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) indicates that observations of the Mont-Blanc massif spanning more than a century validate the occurrence of such landslide incidents for the past 30 years. Notably absent until the 1990s, the French Alps witnessed close to 250 instances of high-altitude rockfalls in 2022.