Plans unveiled to rebuild the rail line between Valais and Évian

Plans unveiled to rebuild the rail line between Valais and Évian

Authorities in Canton Valais have confirmed that they are looking to bring the rail line from Saint-Gingolph to Évian-les-Bains back to life. Once completed, the 300 million franc project would create a public transport loop around the whole of Lake Geneva.

Officials in Valais hope to restore the Tonkin Line

In a statement, authorities in Valais confirmed that they want to restore the so-called Tonkin Line between the French town of Évian-les-Bains and the French-Swiss border community of Saint-Gingolph. Currently, the rail line on the south side of Lake Geneva only runs from Geneva to Évian and from Saint Gingolph to Port-Valais, leaving a 17,8-kilometre gap that has to be served by buses.

The rail route between Évian and Saint-Gingolph was originally opened in 1886, completing the original Tonkin Line that ran from Geneva all the way along the lake to the foot of the Swiss mountains at Saint-Maurice. However, the French government chose to close the section to passenger traffic in 1938 before scrapping it entirely. While evidence of the railway is still present in the form of some tracks and viaducts, much of it has disappeared.

Heavy traffic is the main reason for rebuilding the rail line

Writing in a postulate submitted in December 2023, Valais National Councillor Philippe Nantermod (FDP) said that the number of drivers on the south side of Lake Geneva is the main reason for rebuilding the line. “For the municipalities of Saint-Gingolph, Port-Valais, Vouvry and Vionnaz, the daily passage of 17.000 vehicles considerably reduces the quality of life of citizens,” he noted. 

Valais had hoped that the federal government would fund the project, but this was rejected earlier in February. Therefore, officials have asked for a 22,8 million franc grant to begin the project, which will be approved or denied by the Valais Grand Council in March. As all of the restored rail route would be in France, it is hoped that the French government would foot most of the bill for the project, estimated to be 300 million francs.

Rail project to benefit both French and Swiss workers

Officials noted that if the 17,8-kilometre railway section is rebuilt, it would benefit both French and Swiss workers who wish to commute around Lake Geneva. The project would in essence create a rail loop around the lake, allowing for Léman-Express trains to run all the way from Geneva to western Valais and even Sion. It would also give the residents of France faster access to Valais and southern Vaud.

Currently, officials hope to begin work on the line in 2028 or 2029. If all goes well, the first trains should run on the restored route in either 2031 or 2032.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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