The CEVA (acronym for Cornavin – Eaux-Vives – Annemasse) has been an ongoing topic of discussion and often a bone of contention in the Geneva region since the funding of the project was accepted by 61.2% of the population in a 2009 referendum.
The CEVA saga does not, however, only date back 10 years. As far back as 1881 the first Franco-Swiss convention to build a rail link between Annemasse and Geneva was in fact signed. Since then it has been a rather bumpy road with many hurdles, but after almost 140 years, the vision has become a reality. In a few short months we shall finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and Genevans will not only be able to take a train to Annemasse, they will also enjoy reaching destinations such as Annecy, Evian or Megève, which were not previously accessible by train,
The largest cross-border regional rail network in Europe
This massive project costing some CHF 1,610 million includes 30 km of railway lines, 40 trains and 45 stations and will form part of a 230km Léman Express railway network. 16km of railway infrastructure have been constructed between the Cornavin and Annemasse stations: 14km on the Swiss side – mainly underground – 2km on the French side. Five new stations are in the process of being completed: Lancy-Pont-Rouge, Carouge-Bachet, Champel, Eaux-Vives and Chêne-Bourg. Building in a densely populated urban environment was no small feat, especially as it was paramount to take into consideration environmental and risk management issues and to minimize disturbances to residents living close to the construction sites.
Many question the necessity of spending so much money and disrupting the landscape in certain areas of the city. The vision is, however, a long-term one seen to be indispensable to address the issue of a growing population and the increase of commuters. The railway will connect over one million inhabitants and some 50,000 passengers are forecast to use the service every day. The project also provides a valid alternative to the use of personal cars, saving transportation time and enabling the development of a green belt in the region. Economic and social relations between Geneva and neighboring France will also be enhanced.
But will extending the transport infrastructure lead to any significant advantages for Geneva, as has been the case in other European cities? Visible changes are expected in urban development and there should also be a positive impact on the local economy. We are in fact already seeing dynamic transformations around two of the future stations – Lancy-Point-Rouge and Eaux-Vives. High rise commercial real estate has been growing at an incredible pace, attracting companies such as KPMG, Migros, Ernst & Young and a number of law firms to Lancy-Pont-Rouge, an area previously considered industrial and cut off from the city centre. As for the already densely populated Eaux-Vives area, the new station has led to the construction of over 300 apartments, extensive office space, shops, sports facilities and the new “Comédie” theatre, which will certainly draw crowds to the area.
It is still early days and only the future will tell, but it looks as though this new rail link may dramatically change the landscape, injecting a new vibrant breath of fresh air into the Greater Geneva region and harmoniously bringing communities closer together.