SEPARATION of infrastructure company Rete Ferroviaria Italiana from the Ferrovie dello Stato group, previously planned for this year, has been postponed to 2004 as the government has yet to decide how to proceed. One option is a change of ownership of RFI through a sale of shares in FS. At the moment RFI handles path allocation (RG 11.02 p693), but there are moves to establish an independent national agency controlled by the ministry to allocate paths and set access fees.

Despite the delay, Italy’s private rail operators are applying pressure on the government to move quickly, accusing RFI of being both ’player’ and ’referee’ in the same holding company. In February the Lombardia region, which owns 57% of Ferrovie Nord Milano, claimed that a concession RFI had assigned to Trenitalia Cargo to run 61 freight terminals, of which 14 are in Lombardia, broke EU competition regulations, with Regional President Roberto Formigoni stating that the quasi-monopoly of Trenitalia does not accord with free market rules.

FS Group has meanwhile reported further financial progress. Its annual results for 2002 show a €78m profit after tax compared with €30m in 2001, with a reduction in state subsidy from €2·07bn in 2001 to €1·98bn in 2002. Last year FS invested a total of €5·4bn, of which €2·3bn was for ongoing construction of high speed lines under the TAV programme. By 2005 total annual investment will reach €10bn.

The FS board is pleased with the improved results and progress with restructuring, but Managing Director Giancarlo Cimoli said that the Group will have to reduce the payroll by 10000 in the next three to six years because of increasing automation and use of modern technology. Cimoli also said that passenger fares are still too low, typically just 60% of those charged in the rest of Europe. Fares will have to rise soon to improve the company’s financial performance, and those on the TAV network will be brought into line with those charged in other EU countries.