ON MARCH 30 Swiss Federal Railways signed an agreement with Italian State Railways at the Italian embassy in Bern, marking the formation of a joint venture rail freight company. Under the terms of an accord reached last August (RG 9.97 p572) the two operators will merge their two freight operations over the next three years to create a unified profitable rail freight business able to compete in a liberalised European market.

The new joint venture ’Quality Centre’ known as Cargo Schweiz Italien GmbH will become operational over the next few months, with its headquarters in Milano, and a secondary base at Chiasso. Headed by the former manager of SBB’s Bellinzona workshops Ferdinando Gianella, Cargo SI will take over around 2000 staff from the two railways.

Cargo SI will oversee operation and marketing of international rail freight services between the two countries, with the aim of improving the quality and cost-effectiveness of the business. It will have direct access to top SBB and FS management for intervention in changing operating practices to enhance the viability of the business.

A second joint venture is to be formed later this year, designated the Integration Office. This will be tasked with planning and implementing the merger of the railways’ freight operations in 1999-2000, progressively integrating locos, rolling stock, terminals, information systems and staff. o