High-speed Rail for Regional Transport: a Case Study for Sicily

High-speed Rail for Regional Transport: a Case Study for Sicily


F Russo, G Chilà, G Musolino, C Rindone, University of Reggio Calabria, IT


The paper presents a project of a high-speed railway for regional passenger services in Sicily (Italy). The steps for its realization on tactical and strategic time scales are defined and mobility and socio-economic impacts are analysed.


The paper presents a study concerning the definition of a new supply configuration of the regional public transport system in Sicily (Italy). The core of the study is the project of a regional high-speed railway ensuring direct inter-city passenger services.
Sicily is located in the south of Italy with about 5 millions of inhabitants with an extension of 25.710 km². Palermo, the regional capital, and Catania are the two main cities, in terms of population (the former has 662.046 inhabitants and the latter 306.500 inhabitants) and of concentration of socio-economic activities. They are far each other about 240 kilometres. The two cities represent the main poles of two sub-regional areas (1.661.044 inhabitants for Palermo and 2.113.395 for Catania), which present a quite different economic structure. Agriculture, manufacturing and advanced tertiary activities are mainly located in the sub-regional area of Catania, while the sub-regional area of Palermo presents a concentration of regional administrative and tertiary activities.
The study originates from a survey on the current inter-city railway passenger services operating inside the region, revealing the existence of low values of Level of Service (LoS). LoS is expressed in terms of estimated average inter-city travel times, frequencies and number of transfers in a working day and in a 4:00-11:00 am time slice. Focusing on the OD pair Palermo-Catania, average travel time is today 300 minutes, average daily frequency is 12 runs/day, average number of transfers is 0.9. Considering the same OD pair and the above time slice, average frequencies decline to 2 runs.
Current inter-city travel demand is served mainly by private modes and by bus services, while railway services play a negligible role, due to the above described low values of LoS. Moreover, inter-city passenger mobility is not relevant, if related to the whole regional mobility, due to the low values of accessibility. This phenomenon is more evident for internal areas, which suffer from a condition of relative isolation. The current regional mobility model is based on private modes and on transit bus services, which do not ensure adequate accessibility levels and generate negative impacts on congestion, pollution and safety.
The above critical elements generate the necessity to define a new regional mobility model, which has as main component an high-speed railway with offers direct inter-city passenger services. The high-speed railway could become completely operative after the purchasing of new rolling stock, the design of a new configuration of rail services and the realization of new rail facilities. All these phases may be reasonably performed in a strategic scenario, ensuring sensible reduction of inter-city travel times. The forecasted average travel time on the OD pair Palermo-Catania in a strategic scenario will be 100 minutes.
However, in the study it is foreseen that the realization of high-speed railway will be executed step-by-step; a tactical scenario is defined where some phases will be performed (the purchasing of new rolling stock, design of a new configuration of rail services), which determine a partial reduction of travel times. The forecasted average travel time on the OD pair Palermo-Catania in a tactical scenario will be 150 minutes. The step-by-step realization, with the definition of a tactical scenario, is foreseen in order to allow that the expected positive impacts will display, even if partially, as soon as possible, avoiding that the massive investments will convert into benefits for users and community only after many years.
With reference to the lagged time from the supply modification, the realization of an high-speed railway will generate two type of impacts: short-term and long-term. Short-term impacts involve the regional mobility in the path, departure time, mode dimensions. Long-term impacts concern the destination-emission dimensions, the spatial reallocation of socio-economic activities. The scientific literature is mainly oriented to identify and estimate impacts of national high-speed railways (ex. the Japanese Shinkansen, the French TGV, the Sidney-Canberra corridor, the HS railway in Italy). Impacts of regional high-speed railways have been studied since few years ago (ex. regional high-speed railways in Sweden, France and Kent).
The paper will be articulated in five sections. The first section reports the current mobility model in Sicily with the existing critical elements. In the second section the new regional mobility model is presented: the project and both tactical and strategic scenarios are described. The third section illustrates the impacts on mobility and on the socio-economic system, with reference to literature experiences. In the four section the architecture of the system of models able to forecast the impacts is sketched. The research agenda is presented in the last section.


Association for European Transport