SYSTRA oversees comprehensive rail modernization on the Niort to La Rochelle line
22 July 2016

SYSTRA oversees comprehensive rail modernization on the Niort to La Rochelle line

The Niort-La Rochelle rail line will be celebrating its 160th anniversary in 2017. By that time, it will have been comprehensively modernized to enable faster train movements and a better rail service in the region. For SYSTRA, this represents a novel challenge because it is the company’s first “turnkey” railway-regeneration project in France and has to be delivered to a very tight deadline.

First comprehensive railway-regeneration project

The modernization of the line between Niort and La Rochelle is the first “design and build” railway-regeneration project carried out by SYSTRA in France. The objectives are twofold: to increase the operating speed of the line, and to improve the service for the Aquitaine-Limousin-Poitou-Charentes region. By the end of 2017, the maximum speed on the line will have increased from 140 to 200 km/h, while the regional TER rail service will call at two new stops to be built at Aigrefeuille and La Jarrie.

Delivering this will require refurbished platforms and corrections to some of the curves. Drainage works will also be carried out on this 62km-line which was constructed some 160 years ago in 1857. Adjustments to overhead lines will be considered for the whole of the route, along with the complete renewal of the track (rails, sleepers, and ballast) along a 2.5 km stretch. SYSTRA is overseeing this project from start to finish, from conceptual design to construction, thus, positioning itself as a player in the European railway renovation market.

A modernization delivered in record time

Part of the challenge here lies in the timescales for the project, which demands an intensive programme of works. Active from December 2015 to June 2017, the teams on the site have 20 months only in which to complete the project. The window for carrying out the bulk of the works is even shorter: six weeks between May and June 2016, when the line will be taken out of service, and then blocks of night work, running from January to May 2017.

SYSTRA is responsible for integrated project delivery, as part of a group comprising Colas, Colas Rail, and Fondasol. Systra Group is also responsible for the risk management strategy of the grouping, land-related and environmental activities, and the management of safety-at-work on the railway. In total, over 90 SYSTRA employees are working on this project, including some ten who have worked on the Tours-Bordeaux high-speed line.

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