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APRILE 2023 PAG. 18 - Livorno, Piombino & Vespucci freight village, a Port Network


The gamble of a lifetime? it’s the Darsena Europea, the seaward expansion project with which the port of Livorno hopes to reach new traffic targets.

With the forthcoming completion of the facility, Livorno port will find itself handling 1.2 to 1.6 million TEUs. Millions of twenty-foot containers will therefore have to be unloaded and forwarded inland, with inevitable negative repercussions on the operational efficiency of transport services.

Clearly, road haulage alone cannot cater for the new traffic needs. That is why it becomes imperative to also focus on the railway.

What are the development opportunities for Tuscan intermodality and what are the priorities of the North Tyrrhenian port network?

“The results for 2022 have been more than satisfactory – says the president of the North Tyrrhenian Port Network Authority, Luciano Guerrieri – There has been a significant boom in rail traffic in the port of Livorno. It closed 2022 with a 35.8% increase in the total number of terminal trains, with 2,817 trains and 47,412 wagons.”

“The port benefits from an enviable strategic geographical position” the President points out. adding how, together with Piombino and the nearby Amerigo Vespucci Freight Village, the North Tyrrhenian port network represents a complex logistic node where the important provincial capitals of Livorno, Pisa and Lucca are located, These cities, in close proximity to one another, together form a well-integrated and functionally complementary ‘district’ representing a point of  multimodal connection (by road, rail, and inland waterways) towards the Florentine node and, through this, with the rest of Italy and Europe (Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor).

The North Tyrrhenian node represents the heart of Tuscany’s coastal logistics platform. It is located in an area free of major bottlenecks and benefits from important network infrastructures that connect it to the national, European, Mediterranean and international scale – including road infrastructure (A12 Motorway Genoa-Civitavecchia and the SGC FI-PILI highway), and the rail network (Tyrrhenian Railway Line and the Pisa-Florence line).

“It’s essential to follow up on the important project that the North Tyrrhenian Port Network Authority is pursuing together with RFI (the Italian Railway Network- Translator’s Note) with the aim of providing the system with a competitive edge” Mr Guerrieri adds. He is referring to the Raccordo project, recently financed with the signing of the RFI 2022-2026 Programme Contract.

Together with the overpass between the port and the Vespucci Freight Village, already financed and under construction, the stretch of track with the line extending from Pisa to Vada, south of Livorno, represents a fundamental link for avoiding the Romito cliff tunnels, which are now unsuitable  freight trains, and to allow the port to connect via the Pisa bypass to the Florence railway junction and, therefore, to the high-speed freight line.

“It is the definitive link to the European corridors - says Mr Guerrieri - Once this work is completed, goods can be forwarded more quickly and efficiently to the relevant markets, allowing the port to increase its handling capacity.”

The aim  is to create the conditions to increase the percentage of containers being transported by train up to 25% by 2030, with a medium-term forecast that envisages 30% of containers travelling by train. According to Mr Guerrieri “This is a goal that is not only feasible but necessary to keep up with the development and potential of the port of Livorno.” 

In 2023, it will be essential to work twice as hard on  facilitating transferring goods that are currently only being transported by road, It is no coincidence that last December the feasibility study and preliminary project for reorganizing  and upgrading the railway infrastructure in  the ports of Livorno and Piombino were delivered to the Authority.

A total of 70 million euros will be invested, a portion of which will be allocated, in Livorno, to the construction of a new railway terminal at the cruise terminal and the modernization of tracks in two crucial parts of the port: the forest products area and the motorways of the sea and multipurpose traffic area.

In Piombino, on the other hand, a new junction is set to be built to connect the existing port/retroport operational areas and the new quays to the national railway infrastructure, and to build new tracks, where possible at module 750, to serve the new quays.

Mr. Guerrieri points out how an increasing number or railway companies are establishing themselves in the port of Livorno, setting up their own rail services. “This is an important signal for our port that confirms the value of the work that has been done over the last few years. Darsena Europa and the emphasis on promoting investments in rail infrastructure are part of a strategy that will allow the cluster to offer businesses and operators a clear, accurate picture of the potential we are able to offer.”

Railways, however, are not only used to facilitate the transport of containers by train. Over the last few months the North Tyrrhenian Port Network Authority has produced a technical-economic analysis, in order to promote the transfer of semi-trailers from road to rail as part of an initiative (the ToR Project) also promoted by the Tuscany Regional Administration, Venice Regional Administration, Italian Railways, the Mediterranean Motorway Network (now called RAM Logistics, Infrastructures and Transport), at Vespucci freight village in Guasticce, and the freight villages in Verona and Padua.

“Livorno’s role as a gateway for a dense network of regular Ro/Ro services in the Western Mediterranean, the role of the Veneto Region’s freight villages in terms of the number of services towards Central and Eastern Europe, and being one of the core nodes in the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) programme, reinforce the strategic interest in incentivizing this service,” the president of the Port Network Authority explains. 

Pending the upgrading of the Apennine link, which is planned as part of the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor Performance Upgrading Programme, until 2025 the railway service will only be operable on the HS/HC line between Florence and Bologna, the only one capable of guaranteeing the P/C80 profile for semi-trailers.

“With financial support, the North Tyrrhenian Port Network Authority will promote a start-up phase for the transition period until RFI  completes the work to adapt the trans-Apennine line between Prato and Bologna. It will also introduce an incentive through specific budget allocations to encourage the intermodality of the port-freight village system and beyond.” 

There are indeed many projects in the pipeline and major development opportunities. “This administration has never neglected the strategic importance of intermodality. Our target is to make our port network even more efficient, thanks to improving rail links and an even more advanced infrastructure.” Mr. Guerrieri concludes.

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