Photo: A DMU trainset on the Val Venosta line.
Summary of TRAC Backgrounder No. 2
Californians need to wake up, because at the same time our state seems unable to build new local rail or high speed tracks for less than $70 million a mile, Europeans are showing how to do it for as little as $4 million a mile.
In Italy’s Val Venosta, a regional branch line that had grown weeds for 15 years is now an engine for tourism and eco-friendly development.
…The line was originally meant to connect on its west end to Switzerland and Austria, but the war and division of Southern Tyrol from Austria put that idea on ice.
…Service was taken over in 1918 by the Italian State Railways (Ferrovie dello Statto) but Rome didn’t seem to have much use for the line.
…Discontent by locals and tourists with the increase in road traffic in the Val Venosta led to many voices calling for a reopening of the rail service, including a threated tax strike.
In 1999 the line was turned over to the South Tyrol regional government, which rebuilt it from 2000 to 2004 under the leadership of the STA Transportstrukturen Ltd., a publicly-owned enterprise.
…The new infrastructure uses Y-shaped metal crossties that are more stable than concrete ties for light trains, require less capital cost and are cheaper to maintain. Also, the fact the old rails never had been removed in the decade and a half of abandonment preserved the right-of-way from alternate uses such as highways, and the line never completely disappeared from public consciousness.