The modernisation of the Palermo-Catania-Messina railway line is being undertaken by Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (RFI). Credit: Webuild.
The project involves the doubling of the railway tracks along with electrification to increase the operating speed to 250km/h. Credit: Terna.
The project is expected to be completed by 2029. Credit: Webuild.

The 223km Palermo-Catania-Messina railway line connects the northern and eastern parts of Sicily with the interior parts of the region and is part of the Scandinavia-Mediterranean Corridor of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T).

Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (RFI), a subsidiary of Ferrovie dello Stato (FS), is upgrading a 178km-long section of the railway line between Fiumetorto and Bicocca to increase operating capacity for freight and passenger trains to 250km/h.

The project involves an estimated investment of €11bn ($11.9bn). It will reduce travel time between Palermo and Catania by one hour, and improve accessibility and the quality of rail services, while promoting sustainable mobility.

Expected to be completed by 2029, the project will generate more than 7,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Palermo-Catania-Messina railway line modernisation details

The Palermo-Catania-Messina railway line modernisation includes the electrification and double tracking of the railway line in two macro phases.

The Fiumetorto-Lercara Diramazione section will be double-tracked and a new Valle del Torto station will be developed as part of the first macro phase.

In addition, five single-track sections, including Vallelunga-Caltanissetta Xirbi, Caltanissetta Xirbi-Nuova Enna, Enna-Catenanuova, Dittaino-Catenanuova and Catenanuova-Bicocca, will be upgraded.

The second macro phase will double-track the 42km-long Giampilieri-Fiumefreddo section to the Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSI), which define the standards set by the European Union (EU) for cross-border rail services in Europe. In addition, the Catania Acquicella-Bicocca section will be moved underground and the Catania Centrale-Catania Acquicella section will be double-tracked.

Construction details of the Palermo-Catania rail line

The modernisation of the Palermo-Catania railway line is being carried out in seven functional lots.

Lots 1 and 2 cover the development of the 30km-long Fiumetorto-Lercara Diramazione section. It includes the construction of 20km parallel tunnels, 2km-long road and rail viaducts, and 7km-long roads. In addition, one new station will developed at Valle del Torto while the existing stations at Cerda and Lercara will be upgraded.

Lot 3 comprises the 47km-long Lercara Diramazione-Caltanissetta Xirbi section and includes the construction of 22km of tunnels, 11km of viaducts, 32km of roadworks, and renovation of the Vallelunga station.

Lot 4A covers the 27km-long Caltanissetta Xirbi-Nuova Enna section, which will be built next to the existing railway line. It will comprise the construction of 20km of tunnels and 3km of viaducts.

Lot 4B includes the construction of 15km of new railway line between Nuova Enna-Dittaino, which will pass through three tunnels and five viaducts. It will include the construction of a train station at Enna and the modernisation of another station at Dittaino.

Lot 5 includes the Dittaino-Catenanuova section comprising the construction of a new Catenanuova station, a 7km viaduct, and a 2.3km tunnel.

Lot 6 features the doubling of the 37.5km Bicocca-Catenanuova section, apart from the construction of a new station at Motta Sant’Anastasia and the renovation of the Bicocca station. In addition, a new railway headquarters and a superstructure will be developed, along with the installation of signalling and communication systems and electrical substations.

Funding for the Palermo-Catania railway line

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is providing €3.4bn ($3.6bn) in funding to support the Palermo-Catania railway line modernisation through direct lending to the Italian State and Linked Risk Sharing operations. The investment supports the infrastructure improvements in Sicily.

Contractors involved

A consortium of construction companies Ghella and Webuild is carrying out works on Lots 1, 1A, 2, 3, 4A, 4B, 5 and 6 of the Palermo-Catania railway line project. SELI Overseas, a subsidiary of Webuild; and TunnelPro, a subsidiary of Ghella, are also part of the consortium.

A joint venture comprising the Eteria consortium and Salcef, a construction company, was awarded a €370m ($404.77m) contract to perform modifications to existing rail and road infrastructure and move a section of the railway line underground. The Eteria consortium includes construction companies Vianini Lavori and ITINERA.

Italy-based transmission system operator Terna is constructing an electrical substation and installing overhead cables to support the modernisation of the Palermo-Catania railway line.