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Rejuvenates the historic "watchmakers' line"

GCF France, Renovation watchmakers' line

Work started by GCF on the line from Besançon to Switzerland

GCF France at work in Burgundy-Franche-Comté on the renovation and rehabilitation of Railway Line 872 000, a historic mountain line that has linked Besançon to La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland since 1884. The modernization work, planned by SNCF Réseau, operator of the French rail network, was awarded - for the part concerning the track equipment - to the consortium formed by GCF France, ETF, Feroway and Champenoise.

The Intervention Plan, planned in several phases, overall aims to improve the performance of the network, ensuring optimal conditions of traffic regularity, transport safety and improved passenger comfort.

The line in object, known as the "Watchmakers' Railway" - Besançon is the renowned historical cradle of French watchmaking - runs 75 kilometres toward the Swiss border through mountainous terrain that forces a particularly tortuous route characterized by the presence of 42 railway bridges, 12 tunnels, 48 level crossings and, above all, steep gradients (up to 30 per mille).

“Precisely in view of the gradients present", explains Sabino Carbone, from the management of GCF France, "serving the convoys driven by the P95 renewal train and the C75 ballast cleaner also operates a powerful V212 locomotive capable of safely moving 750-metre-long convoys loaded with sleepers, ballast, rails”.

After the first phase of works that, in 2021, had made it possible to restore about half of the route, the present planning envisages - as far as the track is concerned - the renewal of about 22 of the remaining 40 kilometres of railway. Specifically, GCF s trainsets will "renew" the structural components of the line inaugurated 140 years ago (1884) that are now 70-90 years old, working on the almost complete replacement of ballast, sleepers and rails.

The work will unravel between the Besançon Moullière (pk 408+750) and Morteau (pk 471+850) stations on the two adjacent tracks and will also affect the three Tunnels du Diable, Tournay and De Morre, covering an extension of 1,581 metres.
The daily production of 500 mt. of renewed track per day - fully met in the first fifteen days of construction - will allow the renovation work to be completed by the end of May.

The entire modernization phase of the line, on the other hand, will last until October, as it is planned, at the same time, to modernize numerous works on the line: metal repair of 4 railway bridges, maintenance of 6 masonry bridges, securing of walls and fences, modernization and adaptation to safety standards of 6 tunnels, consolidation by concrete casting of 3 more tunnels, management of vegetation along the line, and, finally, works aimed at making Besançon-Mouillère and Saone stations accessible to people with reduced mobility.

The complex and multifaceted project to renovate the Watchmakers line - 28 companies are involved in various capacities - is financed for this second phase by 53.5 million euros (of 56.2 mln the financing of the first tranche of works) made available by the Burgundy-Franche-Comté Region, the State and SNCF Réseau, with the intention of enhancing rail transport services while taking care of their harmonious inclusion in a historical-artistic context of primary importance.

Founded on a singular bend in the Doubs River, the Citadel of Besançon is, in fact, a masterpiece of 17th-century rampart architecture that was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. "The attention of SNFC," stresses Sabino Carbone, "and consequently of all the companies involved in the works, for the protection of a heritage considered exceptional, is very high. Suffice it to say, for example, that materials and colours used for the restoration of the three bridges visible from the Citadel were chosen in close collaboration with the Architects of Historical Monuments. A concern that we are obviously making our own, as usual, for all measures that concern minimizing the impact of track work".

watchmakers' line