“Good technological development, but with some delays in applications”. And in Italy there is also a cultural problem: "low maturity of users, therefore, little is invested". It must be said that "it is difficult to plan works over time and follow them until they are completed". Finally, experiments are welcome, "but not on the skin of citizens!".Riccardo Genova, of the CIRT Institute of the University of Genoa, is one of the leading Italian experts in technologies for Local Public Transport, organizer of the Città Elettriche conferences and present at MobilityTech in Naples (11-12 June 2012).
1) Rail and underground transport: what are the optimal service areas? What are the performances in km and passengers?
These are modes of transport that differ in range of action and type of service. In the case of railways, it is transportation on a regional and suburban scale, plus city passersby. The subway was created for urban use: in this case too, the rolling stock is made up of actual trains, designed to favor standing places, because an average short journey is assumed.
The type of vehicle must also be congenial to the duration of the journey and to the type of embodiment that normally takes place at the sidewalk level. The service and frequency are also different: while a train can have a frequency of up to half an hour / an hour, the subway, depending on the hours (rush or soft), must be much more frequent.
2) How to maximize their different utilities through new technologies?
For self-driving systems without a driver, such as the Turin metro, transport capacities of up to fifty thousand people per hour per direction are reached. The minimum frequency depends on the presence and length of the block sections, i.e. the distance that must be maintained between one train and another to ensure the safety distance. With the introduction of the mobile block system, (for example Turin with automatic driving and Milan, line 1, with traditional driving) the potential of the line is improved: trains can transit with a time interval of up to 90 seconds. The mobile block allows to dynamically reassign the safety distance between one train and the next, optimizing the running of the trains.
Still on the subject of technologies, rolling stock, that is the means, should also be mentioned. A new generation train does not necessarily work better than an older concept train, but modern ones have better and more efficient traction and braking systems and provide greater comfort for passengers.
If the traffic flows are consistent, it is then essential that the line must be specialized and, of course, double track.
3) What is the situation of Local Public Transport (TPL) in Italy today?
In general, the situation in Italy is one of good technological development, thanks also to our industry, world leader in the sector. On the other hand, in Italy, some applications are lagging behind compared to other nations: in particular I am referring to an imbalance between road transport compared to rail transport, the scarcity of railway passersby, not intended as an infrastructure of which many cities are already partially equipped, but as programming the service.
After a good boost in the 1990s, we are still lagging behind even in the tram systems. The problem is often cultural: there is no maturity on the part of potential users, and therefore of citizens, and consequently too little investment is still being made. I cite, just to give an example, the no-tav movements, and even the no-trams, as happened for the tramway in Valbisagno in Genoa, where some rigid opposing positions were added to shared observations by citizens and committees.
The problem is also in the system of assignment and management of the works: you know when the construction sites start, but not when they finish. We should intervene with a medium-term planning: only in this way can the necessary funding be obtained, valid projects are made, and they are implemented. In Italy, it is difficult to plan works over time and follow them up to their realization.
4) Which cities are making the most investments in the right direction?
At the top of the list I would certainly mention Milan, which is developing new metro lines: lines 5 and 4, and the extension of line 3. In this city, a vast network is being developed, which will be fully connected with suburban railway lines. Also in Milan, the tramway and trolleybus network in the bypass line is also being renewed, with new vehicles equipped with supercapacitors, which allow energy savings of up to 25% of the total. Revamping operations are also underway on the underground vehicles (restructuring and renewal of vehicles already in circulation): they are cars from the 60s / 70s, with direct current motors and rheostatic drive, on which optimization is underway both from point of view of the interior furnishings, but above all on the traction part, with three-phase asynchronous motors and electronic inverter power drives.
After Milan, Florence can be mentioned as having built the first tram line and two more are planned.
We always think of the North, but also the South has good and interesting achievements. In Naples, for example, there are many projects and works in progress (such as the new Garibaldi interchange), both rail and tram, and the underground that is being extended. Then Palermo, with the construction of new tram lines, a great economic and cultural investment.
Finally, I would mention Cagliari, with a modern and efficient trolleybus network. In addition, the city invests in the tram sector and the development of the network is also planned along the Sardinian railway line, with a sort of tram-train system.
5) Some European examples to “copy” from?
At the suburban railway level, the Munich passer-by, which reaches very high efficiency standards with a mobile block system: the transit of 30 trains is supported within the section that crosses the city center (4.2 km long) per hour per direction.
Then Alicante and Stuttgart with theLRT (Light Rail Transit, surface underground), a system that in Italy could be applied in different situations, with reduced costs compared to the traditional underground tunnel dug (€ 30,000k per km versus € 100,000k per km), allowing the use of available funding for create works of greater length and, ultimately, usability. In general, and this is a trend at a global level, surface systems are now preferred both for the aforementioned economic reasons and for greater usability by users and the positive urban reorganization underway in our cities.
6) Can buses be better used today? like?
Yes it can, with the adoption of philosophy BRT: Bus Rapid Transit, a concept that brings bus operation closer to that of a rail system. This happens through the creation of real equipped and specialized paths. Today a bus line can reach transport capacities of up to 1,500-2,000 people per hour per direction, which is achieved with large buses (18-24 meters). In Italy, we are waiting for the highway code to allow the circulation of vehicles from 24 meters, which is already happening in many European countries.
7) In this panorama and with these perspectives, what contribution do institutions and individuals make? What could they give?
Institutions should contribute with planning, which must go hand in hand with the urban reorganization of cities: the works cannot be built, and only afterwards think about the transport system. I take the example of Malpensa Airport, but also of the Assago district in Milan, where a huge shopping complex was built from scratch that still faces an insufficient road network; the new and efficient metro line 2 stop is good. When designing several works, transport planning must be at the base, with an overview, with the management of timetables and single pricing: with the same ticket you must be able to access not only all transport systems. transport (buses, trams, trains) but also to other elements related to mobility (such as the car sharing). The industry in the sector, as regards buses, trains, technologies and infrastructures, has cutting-edge products, with innovative and consolidated systems from every point of view. But experimentation should not be done on the skin of citizens!
Interview byMarta Abbà