Infrastructure-caused delays, infrequent trains, interrupted or single-track lines, inadequate resources: in Italy, the ecological transition of rail transport remains at a standstill. The worst situation is in the South: the Circumvesuviana, Roma-Lido, Roma Nord-Viterbo, Catania-Caltagirone-Gela are among the worst rail lines in the country.
Legambiente’s Pendolaria 2023 report gives a snapshot of the delays and offers a warning: “To meet the goals of the European Green Deal, €2 billion a year are needed until 2030. Enough with chasing useless pharaonic projects like the bridge over the Messina Strait.”
From 2018 to 2022, subway lines grew by barely a mile per year. For new tram lines as well, the average figure for the last five years is disappointing: only 2.1 kilometers added per year (zero in the last three years). In the South, in particular, fewer and older trains are in operation: their average age is 18.5 years, down from 19.2 years in 2020 but much higher than the 11.9 years in the North. Furthermore, the lines are largely single-track and not electrified.
In Sicily, for example, regional trains do 506 journeys each day, compared to 2,173 in Lombardy (for populations of 5 and 10 million respectively). There are no direct trains at all between Naples and Bari. In Sicily, the Palermo-Trapani line (through Milo) has been closed since 2013 due to landslides, and the Caltagirone-Gela line is still closed after the collapse of the Carbone Bridge in 2011. In Apulia, the Corato-Andria section is still inactive six and a half years after the 2016 accident that caused 23 deaths.
From 2010 to 2020, more investments have been made in road transport than in rail: 310 kilometers of highways (plus thousands of kilometers of national roads) have been built compared to 91 kilometers of subways and 63 kilometers of tram lines. Without investment, the critical issues remain.
The ranking of the worst lines starts with the former Circumvesuviana in the Naples area, the Roma-Lido and Roma Nord-Viterbo, the Catania-Caltagirone-Gela, Milan-Mortara, Verona-Rovigo and Rovigo-Chioggia, Genoa-Acqui-Asti and Novara-Biella-Santhià.
In Campania, in particular, there were only 245 trains running in 2021, with an average age of 21.4 years, 72% of which are more than 15 years old. The rolling stock of EAV (formerly Circumvesuviane, Sepsa and MetroCampania NordEst) is 25 years old on average. The consequence is few trips, often canceled due to breakdowns, with the number of people using public transport falling by 43.9%.
Legambiente is asking the government for an investment of €500 million per year to strengthen regional rail service (purchasing and revamping trains) plus €1.5 billion per year to build subway, tram and suburban lines. This is a total of €2 billion a year until 2030, a sum that “can be found in the state budget, especially given the extensive list of fossil fuel subsidies.”
Stefano Ciafani, national president of Legambiente, says: “The process of reconverting transport in Italy is essential if we are to meet the goals of cutting emissions by 55% by 2030 and bringing them to zero by 2050, given that the sector is responsible for more than a quarter of Italy’s climate-changing emissions, which have actually grown since 1990 in absolute terms. This is why we need to stop pursuing useless projects such as the Messina Strait Bridge.”
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