The International Steam Pages

Italian Steam Prospects 2009

Stefan Paolini has provided an overview of Italian steam preservation scene in late 2008 and now provides a rather gloomy update.

"Sadly, the mainline of all this are BAD SAD NEWS!

We left at the August 2008 situation.

Since then many steam or historic trains have run and also the event in Milano I organised went very well. We got more than 8,000 visitors in a day and half, with more than 40 items displayed in the depot, and 3 shuttle steam trains going up and down in the yard.

But things went too much well for someone....

Railway managers in high positions were jealous about the wonderful backup some other managers get, so have mounted a vendetta. Railway rules has been applied rigidly, many coaches and locos were actually running with "extra" permit. Since November all have to work strictly by rules so dozen of coaches and many locos are stored because the time for medium term repairs is overdue.

In the meantime FS published the budget for 2009 and also that one for the regional division, to which the historic division is connected. A poor budget, as you guess... .and not a single eurocent was devoted to historic activity. So also normal repair jobs or even only the repainting of a single coach has no funding. Until December charter trains were operated with available locos and coaches and after that everything stopped.

To the general situation we have to add the desperate policy of FS manager Mauro Moretti to raise money from everything. So many buildings, sites, yards have been sold to councils or local governors. Among these sites which have officially been sold is the Pistoia depot area, centre of repair for all Italian steam, luckily labelled as a historic museum site in the city and the Province, and in the Rimini area and Tirano areas a long list of freight yard and passenger stations will soon be sold....

Also Pietrarsa Museum once operated by a determinate organism inside FS structure has moved to another office assignment and now it figures as a simply meeting place like any other....

In all this rush to raise money and cut every seeming - I repeat, seeming - loss, some other managers focused on historic sector. They examined the costs and the revenue coming from charter trains - which was suggested by some railfan clubs searching equal treatment to others - and they erased all the existing methods for calculating the price to sell a charter to club, groups or touristic agencies. New rates are increased by about 400% from the existing ones:

  • To fire up a steam loco they want 10,000 Euro + 11 Euro/km
  • To energize an electric loco or emu 13,000 Euro + 5 Euro/km
  • To start a diesel loco or dmu 11,000 Euro + 5euro/km

The method to calculate these fares is absolutely wrong and based on data chosen in a totally incorrect way. No one can afford these rates so the first result is that from January to March, 12 trips have been cancelled. The regular seasonal steam trips or events in 2009 will probably not take place.

And this is what they want! No trains, no need to keep all this steel rusting in depots they want to sell, dismantling of historic section and uncertain future - to be sarcastic - of all trains.

On March 9th 2009 there will be an important meeting in Roma to try to explain what went wrong with these new rates and to try to keep something alive from our historic stock. On March 14th another meeting among all Italian clubs will take place in Turin to try to draft a document that will then presented in Parliament to discuss the future of trains in Italy.

But in our railways everything is going absolutely wrong. Passenger and regional trains are more and more broken, dirty and later than ever. The freight division is running at a massive loss, hundreds of locos are already programmed to be scrapped, hundreds of railwaymen will have to find a new job and in all of this who will be care for our beloved old things???? A little niche in a sea of big problems......"

Rob Dickinson