CONSULTANTS are due to submit bids on October 8 for a contract worth up to 2·5bn lire to help Italian State Railways with restructuring. Whoever wins this enviable little task will have their work cut out, but as a consultant they will have the benefit of being one step removed from the less enviable job of putting the restructuring into practice.

At least a start has been made. About 40% of the FS infrastructure assets have been transferred to FS subsidiary business ASA Rete which may one day be floated off as a genuinely separate company. To start with ASA Rete has 52000 former FS employees, which will later fall to 41600 as some staff take voluntary redundancy and others are split among the three operating companies into which the rest of FS is being divided - a process due to be complete by the year end, according to FS President Giancarlo Cimoli. In 1998 ASA Rete’s costs will total 4844bn lire, but income from track access charges will only amount to 1355bn lire. State grants of 3100bn lire will cover most of the gap.

Further details of the track access charging regime are emerging (RG 8.98 p495). Charges will be based on a fixed element (not applied on low-density routes), and a variable element based on wear and tear, speed, time of day and traffic density. Agreement on the amounts and the structure has been reached by the parties involved, but as ever, all must be approved by the cabinet.

In contrast, uncertainty appears to be have been dispelled over the remaining parts of the north-south high speed trunk line with the government announcing at the end of July the ’final go-ahead’ for the last 13 km of the Bologna - Firenze line and the 64 km Parma - Bologna section, on which work is to start at the end of the year. Roberto Renon, Managing Director of TAV, the FS subsidiary with overall responsibility for high speed lines, described July 31 as ’an historic day’, saying that the entire Milano - Napoli route is now cleared for construction.

Substantial changes have been made to the alignment of the Milano - Bologna alignment, with 130 out of 180 km now to be built parallel to the A1 motorway and 10 km close to the present main line. Eight interconnections totalling 100 km will provide links to the rest of the FS network, and a single intermediate station will be built at Reggio Emilio. Total cost of the line is put at 6000bn lire.

So it seems certain that the vertical part of the big T will be finished, but the cross-bar may never be. Following the abandonment of a proposed high speed Milano - Genova link, it seems that the high speed line from Milano to Torino is to be ditched too. In a review of outstanding projects, Cimoli said that ’this organisation’s priority is the construction of a new line between Italy and Switzerland’, with the choice resting on a link from Milano that would meet the Swiss Gotthard base tunnel. This effectively means the end of further work on the proposed Lyon - Torino base tunnel too - which would have been even harder to justify. o