The Voice of the Susa Valley/ 7

Venaus Val di Susa.jpg
photo: MediaMind_photoagency

In an interview with l'Espresso, Marco Ponti, a professor at the Milan Polytechnic , one of the most important experts in the economy of transport in Europe and consultant to the World Bank, has made these interesting statements:

"... The Italian system is largely under-utilised. On a normal line with double track, 240 trains a day can travel on it. And on a High-speed track (AV) up to 350 can. It doesn't make sense to add this enormous capacity on some of the segments, as there is not the demand for rail transport of this magnitude. Note that the AV lines are very costly.”

“ … the railways in Italy all  have to run along viaducts and go through tunnels. And the costs increase to stratospheric levels. At the same time, while the French AV is a “Light” AV, only for passengers, the model that we have chosen is mixed, passengers and freight, and is quite a lot more expensive.”.

“This model does not have any rational reason: the capacity of the existing network is far in excess of the demand and the goods that travel by train do not need to travel at 300 Kilometres per hour, 180 is more than enough. The cost of tunnels is proportional to the square of their radius: make them a bit wider and the cost doubles. If we need the trains to run fast, the tunnels need to be generous, otherwise an “ariete” effect is produced and it slows down the train. Conclusion: either we do like we did for the piece of AV track between Bologna and Florence, that was not finished because the costs rose to mad heights to create wide tunnels, or we do normal tunnels, as for the Frejus project, and have the trains running no faster than 120-150 kilometres per hour. So much for AV!”

An AV that costs nothing to the State already exists: the low cost flights. You can’t beat them above 500km. To go from Turin to Paris, is unlikely that you’ll take the Turin-Lyon. But it makes it even more improbable to square the accounts: AV needs enormous traffic flows to justify it. We are way off that. There are 30 long distance trains a day travelling between Milan and Turin and they are half empty: the number in the official estimates on the Frejus is about 12.”

“At the beginning it was promised that the AV project would pay for 60% of its costs. Then this came down to 40% and finally it was established that 40% of the costs excluding the costs for the “nodes” near the cities, (really expensive). According to my simulations it would be around 20%; others estimate 23%. The system is destined for the default: the State pays. Many of these projects will get off the ground and then there won’t be the money to continue them and they will be restarted every time there is an election. The Turin-Lyon is a monument to dissipation: it will cost at least 13 thousand million, like 3 or 4 bridges over the Straits of Messina. Werner Rothengatter, world president of transport experts, in his “Megaprojects” has calculated that by the end, the cost of these massive schemes increases on average by 30-40 per cent.”

“To develop innovation, we need to focus on technology rather than on cement. As far as employment is concerned, nowadays, the massive projects have a modest multiplier effect: manual labourers are not used as they were in the 1800’s. And then it is evident that our country has a great tourist value in the future. Thus there are more fruitful ways of spending money. Unless of course someone is promising themselves great business on the great works.”

Source: Espresso.

Is there any expert in Italy who wants to answer with some numbers to this?

Posted by Beppe Grillo at 10:01 PM in | Comments (1)
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The site is really beautiful, with plenty of dizzying overlooks.
From there, we drove further up the valley to the town of Susa. There we had a nice lunch at a pizzaria and also saw some roman ruins. The Arch of Augustus is on of this town's chief draws, and it really is quite a site in a little mountainside town. Susa itself is an inviting and quaint little village. It has a comfortable and inviting feel that we really enjoyed.

Posted by: Ethan | July 26, 2008 07:21 AM

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