Lyon-Turin Railway Line - The opening of the construction site for the Base Tunnel in Chiomonte

The companies sign sustainability and safety pacts with TELT 

Chiomonte, 18 December 2023 - Matteo Salvini, Italian Minister for Infrastructure and Deputy Prime Minister, officially marked the start of operations this morning in the Susa Valley at the construction site for the excavation of the Italian section of the Mont Cenis base tunnel, part of the new Lyon-Turin railway line.

The UXT binational group of companies, composed of Itinera (group head), Ghella and Spie Batignolles, which was awarded the one billion euro work contract in Italy, will be responsible for constructing the two tubes of the railway tunnel from Chiomonte to Susa, for which two tunnel boring machines and about 700 workers are planned. 

In front of representatives of institutions, employers' associations and trade unions, the group of companies presented the work and signed the Lyon-Turin Business integrity and sustainability pact and the Mission-S Charter, the programme for workplace safety at the construction site.

These two contractual documents govern the way in which TELT, the binational company commissioned by the Italian and French governments to manage the construction of the work, binds the entire supply chain to respect the fundamental principles of sustainable development indicated by the UN Global Compact.

The 57.5-km-long Mont Cenis base tunnel is already under construction on the French side starting from the entrance at Saint-Julien-Montdenis. It will stretch for 45 km in France and 12.5 km in Italy.

"We are building a piece of Europe," said TELT's general director, Maurizio Bufalini, "and for those who have experienced the birth of this construction site this day represents a very exciting moment: the start of work in Italy too on the excavation of the tunnel through which the trains will pass is a goal that could not be taken for granted.  It is the result of the unceasing work of planners, contractors and local, regional and national public officials without whose effort and determination we would not be here today.  So, I want to thank my colleagues at TELT, the Italian, French and European institutions, the workers, trade unions and employers' associations, but also the many citizens who repeatedly spurred us on, especially in the most difficult times. I wish the new group of companies all the best for a job that I am sure will go down in European history: the realisation of the longest railway tunnel in the world”.

Gianni Luciani, President of Itinera, at the head of the UXT group of companies, said, “The companies in the group represent excellence in the field of large infrastructure works, particularly underground. We are proud to be part of this international project, which will be realised by using the very best professional skills and technologies and will promote the area and all its facilities with a view to growth and development".

The new companies took over the Chiomonte construction site after the contract for the construction of the interchange niches were completed in November. These niches within the Maddalena 1 tunnel are necessary for the logistics of the vehicles that need to reach the altitude at which the two tubes of the base tunnel will be excavated.

The planned activities

The work, which will be carried out from the construction site already operational in the Maddalena di Chiomonte area, will employ more than 700 people at peak activity. In the first few months, the companies will set up the site and begin the activities necessary to prepare the site for excavation: assembly of the site structures and installation of equipment and materials, implementation of the executive project for the planned work and to set up the two tunnel boring machines that will excavate all the way to the Susa entrance. 

A total of approximately 30 km of excavation work is planned: in addition to the two base tunnel tubes, further excavations are planned: the Maddalena 2 tunnel, from where the tunnel boring machines will start, the bypasses between the two tubes, the Clarea safety site and the artificial tunnel at the east entrance to Susa. For the excavation from the Clarea safety site to Susa, the use of two dual-mode TBMs is planned; these are capable of changing their advancement mode according to the type of terrain they have to face.

These TBMs are machines equipped with a head with rotating cutters that can excavate in hard rock or change configuration to advance through 'soft' terrain (that is, consisting of sand or gravel). In the presence of this more friable terrain, the cutter is thus configured to counteract the face of the excavation by exerting a counter-pressure that allows it to advance safely.  It is expected that this modification will need to take place in a section of about 1.5 km passing beneath the Cenischia Valley.

The commitment to decarbonisation

In addition to actions for environmental protection and control during construction, the group of companies is committed to make the Chiomonte construction site a net 'zero-emission' site. To do this, on the one hand, it is implementing a strategy that includes minimising emissions through the use of energy from renewable sources, technological systems for low energy consumption and the employment of low-emission vehicles, including electric ones. On the other hand, it is committed to compensate residual emissions through actions resulting from certified projects.

Press Release