French-Italian rail tunnel in the Alps still closed says SNCF
The substantial rockfall that occurred between in Savoie, France, on Sunday 27 August is still blocking train traffic between France and Italy in the Fréjus rail tunnel, says the French railway company SNCF in an update.
Rail traffic between St Michel de Maurienne and Modane has been suspended for an indefinite period, until further notice. Transport Minister Clément Beaune visited the still-fragile site of the landslide this Thursday. Whereas it was originally reported that 700 cubic metres of stone were blocking the road and tracks, France Bleu has raised this figure to 3,000 cubic metres of unstable rock at the head of the cliff.
“Before deciding on the duration of the work, we must wait until the diagnosis and the operations to remove any material that may still have fallen have been carried out under the supervision of the State services. SNCF Réseau teams will then be able to access the site, assess the damage to the railway installations, and evaluate the duration of our restoration work accordingly”, stated an SNCF spokesperson. Alternative rail links between France and Italy can still be made via two other routes, via Nice and via Zurich.
Disrupted traffic in the Alps
Traffic in the Alps has been blocked on several fronts in the last weeks. The Swiss Gotthard Base Tunnel was closed following the derailment of 16 freight carriages on 10 August 2023 which caused extensive damage to the infrastructure and was partially reopened to rail traffic on 22 August 2023. Additionally, the Brenner Pass between Italy and Austria was closed for “extensive work in the railway tunnels”, between 6 and 23 August, according to Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB).
There are now questions being raised regarding the renovation of the Mont Blanc highway tunnel. Infrastructure operator Geie has announced plans to recommence renovation efforts on a 1.2-kilometre segment of the Mont Blanc tunnel, which spans a total of 11.6 kilometres. The anticipated cost for this project is approximately 50 million euros ($54.05 million), with work set to begin next year. This would necessitate a 15-week closure of the tunnel, starting on 4 September 2023 and lasting until 18 December 2023. Though this is not a rail tunnel, such a closure would add further strain on transportation infrastructure in the Alps.