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Rail route to regeneration

Italy: Turin

Relieving crippling traffic congestion in Turin was never going to be easy.

Mark Hansford reports from a real, live Italian Job.

When in the 1969 fim, Charlie Croker's gang pulled off their daring gold bullion heist with little more than British pluck and three Minis, it still needed a major international football match and Professor Simon Peach to create the traffic jam. But today, the lady-loving professor might find himself out of a job.

Because 33 years on, just a football match in front of fewer than 30,000 fans at the Stadio delle Alpi is enough to cause total gridlock.

One million residents live and travel within the tight confines of the city's 17th century streets.

Yet it has no underground system and no commuter rail system, with the result that 55% of daily travel takes place by private transport.

'Our biggest problem is giving accessibility to the historical centre of town, ' explains city councillor Mario Viano. 'We needed a means of access other than by car.'

Two major underground projects now under construction - a US$1.2bn north-south cross rail scheme and a US$821M eastwest Metro scheme - will provide these much needed public transport options (see page 18).

The cross rail scheme is particularly vital, as it is central to a massive commitment by the city council to urban regeneration.

For years the main railway running north-south through Turin, linking Italy to France and beyond, has represented a huge barrier between the east and west of the city.

'The railway was built at the end of the 19th century when the town centre was more to the east, ' says Viano. 'Hills limited expansion in that direction, so over the last 100 years the city has expanded west. So the railway now cuts it in two.'

The cross rail scheme will see 7.5km of the railway moved underground, with two additional tracks and five new stations added for commuter trains and will allow regional trains to connect in and terminate at the main station.

The space released on the surface provides the opportunity for aesthetically pleasing treelined boulevards and ample cyclepaths and pavements. This 'royal backbone' will also become the main north-south trunk road route, and provide new road links across the city.

Buses and trams on the surface will interchange with trains below.

Seven areas previously occupied by the railways and now redundant industries will be recovered, bringing several hundred hectares into social and business use.

'These areas have always had a big urban value by the fact that they are near the centre of town, ' says Viano, 'but now they will also be well served by public transport. We want each to have its own identity.'

Juventus football club will be among those set to benefit. Currently the nearby rail line terminates at the industrial Porta Dora in the north of the city, and with no link to the city centre, fans must travel by bus or, more likely, come by car.

When completed in 2011, cross rail trains will serve the stadium and airport from the city centre every 10 minutes. Porta Dora will undergo a massive transformation, its 120ha of former iron foundries cleared and used for residential and commercial schemes, a technology park and a 45ha urban park.

Another key regeneration area is Porta Susa, a rundown site which is to become the city's new main railway station. The current main station Porta Nuova will become a terminus for regional trains only. Both stations will have interchanges with the new Metro line.

Going underground

Turin's cut and cover cross rail scheme is effectively two projects. The first - doubling line capacity from Porta Susa to the Lingotto exhibition centre in the south - was carried out in the 1980s, before state funds ran dry. The second - continuing the line expansion north from Porta Susa to connect with the new high speed rail link to Milan at Porta Stura (via Porta Dora) - is now under way.

For rail operators, the twin track section south of Porta Susa is by far the most important, bypassing a bottleneck at the Zappata intersection, where lines heading north west for Milan, south to Genoa, north east to France and the Porta Nuova spur previously converged.

A second twin-track underground gallery serves regional and urban trains between Porta Nuova and Susa, widening to four tracks near Susa.

In total six different gallery cross-sections were used, with the box for the local trains running beneath the high speed box through the Zappata area, before rising and running adjacent to the high speed lines at Porta Susa. All lines will run at the same level throughout section two.

The first part of this, from Porta Susa to Porta Dora (the airport link), got going in 2000 intended to ready by 2005 in time for the 2006 Winter Olympics. However, a redesign called for by the city council - an extra US$98M has been made available to take the railway under the River Dora rather than over it - means that the section will not open until 2007. The second section, from Porta Dora to Porta Stura, is dependent on state finance but is expected to take a further five years.

'The river undercrossing will take two more years, ' explains Gianmario Cavallero, construction manager at Halferr, the engineering division of the state-owned rail operator RFI. 'But the long term advantages are more important than the delay.'

'Going over the river would have left a large chunk of the city still divided, ' adds Emanuelle Perra, of contractor Astaldi.

The likely construction method is cut and cover with a temporary diversion of the 30m wide river, adds Perra.

Cut and cover will be used for all but 350m of the 7.5km of tunnel on the 12km line with two different construction sequences.

For about half the length, where the railway is already in cutting, the sequence of work will be to install retaining walls, excavate to bottom slab level and lay bottom slab, before setting up falsework and formwork and laying a precast concrete roof.

But the preferred method, known as the 'Milan Method' after it was used successfully on the Milan Metro, is to cast the roof insitu as soon as the retaining walls are in place, before excavating beneath and laying the bottom slab. Road laying and other surface works can then begin while work in the tunnel continues.

Either way, the construction of the gallery floor remains the same. The 2.5m by 1.8m by 350mm deep precast concrete slabs are surrounded by rubber to minimise vibration. Similarly, rubber is laid between the floor slab and sleepers, and between the sleepers and the rail.

Lingotto station and the section north of the River Dora will be built at surface level.

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