The largest regional cross border rail network in Europe will open in 107 days. This will be LEMAN EXPRESS (LEX), a franco-swiss rail network which will link 45 stations within a radius of 60 km around Geneva, in the départements of Ain (01) and Haute Savoie (74) in France, and the Swiss cantons of Vaud and Geneva, on the banks of Lac Léman. The "LEX" trains will operate over 230 km. It is expected that 50,000 passengers daily will use the new transport system. The LEX network will benefit more than one million residents around Lac Léman.
At the centre of the network is the new CEVA rail link (16 km long) which connects Geneva-Cornavin central station with the SNCF station at Annemasse(F), a neighbouring French town with a population of 37,000.
Currently, there are 630,000 border crossings daily by road between Geneva and the surrounding French towns and villages. More than 100,000 "frontaliers" cross this border daily. (Residents of France who work in Geneva, but also Swiss nationals who live in nearby France and work in Geneva). LEX should reduce road traffic and resulting pollution in Geneva. It will strengthen the economic and social ties in the area with a frequent cross border public transport system. It is hoped that road traffic within Geneva will decrease by 12% with the opening of LEX.
In this report, we describe the background and current status of the LEMAN EXPRESS project.
CEVA (Cornavin - Eaux Vives - Annemasse)
The idea of a rail link from Annemasse to Geneva central station is not new. The link was the subject of a Franco-Swiss convention in 1881. A first section from Annemasse(F) to Geneva Eaux-Vives was opened in 1888. The station building was constructed with the expectation that it would be a temporary structure. It survived 123 years (!) and was demolished in 2011.
In 1912, financial arrangements were agreed to complete the link, but a long delay ensued. Between 1939 -1949, a start was made to the rail link with a line from Genève-Cornavin across the Rhône river into "La Praille" district. In 2008, plans were presented for a tunnel between La Praille and Eaux Vives with an underground extension on to Annemasse. Many objections to the costly CEVA project were presented by Geneva residents along the planned route. The residents are, in particular, very hostile to "frontaliers", blaming them (incorrectly) for high unemployment locally (7%). In fact, studies show that the majority of jobs occupied by frontaliers are in the hotels and restaurants, bars and in the hospitals. Jobs that are not filled by the local population.
After 3 years of bitter conflicts, all the objections were rejected by the courts, and a local referendum approved the project with a majority of 61%.
In November 2011, work at last began on the, delayed, ultimate project to build a strategic rail link at Geneva that will become the foundation of the extensive regional franco-swiss "TER" network.
Eight years later, CEVA is complete and the "LEMAN EXPRESS" rail network is scheduled to open on Dec 15th 2019.