ITALIAN Rail Network (RFI) officially started work on May 15 on the long-delayed project to build a new underground through station at Florence Belfiore, north of the existing Florence Santa Maria Novella (SMN) station where north-south high-speed trains currently reverse.

Mr Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister and minister of infrastructure and transport, was present at the ceremony to mark the start of construction together with Mr Luigi Ferrari, CEO of Italian State Railways (FS), Mr Eugenio Giani, president of the Tuscany Region, and Mr Dario Nardella, mayor of Florence.

RFI awarded a contract for the project in November 2022 to the Consorzio Florentia, comprising Pizzarotti and Saipem. Italferr will manage the €2.7bn project. Belfiore station was designed by Foster & Partners and Ove Arup & Partners and involves the construction of a structure up to 25m below street level, measuring approximately 450m x 50m, and covering an area of ​​around 45,000m2.

The most important architectural element is the large 18m-high glass roof supported by a steel structure. The roof is designed to control noise, allow natural light to filter down to the lower levels of the station and extract fumes.

The project includes the construction of two 7km parallel single-track tunnels to connect the new four-track station to the existing network near Florence Rifredi station to the north and Florence Campo di Marte station to the southeast. The tunnels will be bored at a depth of about 20m and they will be connected by cross-passages at 500m intervals.

Belfiore will be linked to Florence SMN by an existing light rail line and a new peoplemover shuttle.

In addition to reducing journey times for high-speed services, the new tunnel will free up capacity on the surface network for up to 50% more regional services.

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