ITALIAN regional operator Ferrovie Nord Milano launched a new open-access freight service on April 18, linking Desio yard in Milano and the border station at Chiasso Smistamento. The train is operated under contract for SBB Cargo, pending the start of operations by Swiss Rail Cargo Italy which received a licence on March 26 and is expected to begin running its own trains in December.

FNM is using a pair of Skoda-built Class E630 locos on the northbound service, which return with two 1300 tonne trains carrying German steel to Camnago-Lentate. This traffic is being shipped via Basel by SBB Cargo affiliate Rhenus Alpine AG, saving four days over the previous arrangements.

FNM expects to restructure its freight operations as a separate company later this year, and is planning to recruit up to 80 more drivers. During 2002 the company’s original Melzo - Zeebrugge route launched in September 2001 handled 11000 containers on 431 trains. Opening of two new private sidings serving BASF and Zanussi plants near Groane has boosted business on the Saronno - Seregno line, and FNM has leased Class 752 diesel locos from Officine Leon D’Oro of Marmirolo.

Further growth is expected following FNM’s decision to take a 70% stake in specialist shipper Cargo Clay, which transports imported clays for the Italian ceramic industry based around Modena.