Rome's Transport System Faces “Meltdown,” On Brink Of Collapse
New York City’s deteriorating subway has a rival for world’s most dysfunctional public transportation system. After only three months on the job, Bruno Rota, the head of Rome’s public-transit company has announced that he’s leaving his post, saying that the Italian capital city’s decaying transportation system should declare bankruptcy, according to Reuters.
Rota’s departure is an embarrassment for the anti-establishment five-star movement and one of its most high-profile politicians, Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi. Since taking office last year, Raggi’s administration has been paralyzed by internal tumult while the city’s infrastructure has continued to decay. The party’s failures in Rome suggest that it’s not prepared to govern, and may have contributed to Five-Star’s losses in a series of municipal elections last month. Meanwhile, the situation could hurt the party’s chances in next year’s general election.
Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi
“Bruno Rota quit Atac on Friday, just three months after taking charge of the Italian capital’s bus, metro and tram network, saying he was unable to salvage the firm and feared possible legal action tied to any eventual collapse.
“It is an appalling scandal,” said Rota, who was called down to Rome after helping to turn around the transport system in the northern city of Milan. “The situation is worse than you can imagine,” he told la Repubblica newspaper.
Rota’s dramatic departure has triggered yet another crisis for the city’s 5-Star administration, which won power last year in what was seen as a litmus test of whether the anti-establishment group was ready to run Italy.”
City officials are publicly criticizing Raggi, saying that Rome needs a “change in direction” after the city nearly adopted water rationing laws last week amid a worsening drought.
“We need a change of direction. If we carry on like this we will fall apart. The whole city will fall apart,” Andrea Mazzillo, Rome’s third budget chief in a year, told la Repubblica.
In a statement on Facebook, Raggi ordered her team to stop complaining and promised to sort out problems at Atac, which has suffered from many years of chronic neglect and mismanagement.
The company has some 1.3 billion euros ($1.5 billion) of debts and a rate of absenteeism amongst its 12,000-strong workforce of 12 percent, company records show.”
Dozens of Atac buses and trains in need of repair are languishing in the company’s warehouses.
According to an internal Atac report, 36 percent of all the company’s buses are blocked in garages because they have broken down or are undergoing maintenance, with the figure rising to 50 percent for the city’s creaking fleet of trams.
There have also been several embarrassing accidents; earlier this month, a woman suffered severe injuries. When she got dragged down a platform after her handbag was trapped in the door of the train. Videos showed the driver was eating lunch at the wheel and didn’t notice.
Years of underfunding have left the company barely able to pay its employees and contractors, as some Italian newspapers reported that Atac buses were being left in the streets by contractors that had been stiffed by Atac.
“The company is unmanageable. It doesn’t have any money left in its accounts,” said Rota, adding that Atac was no longer able to guarantee the regular payment of salaries or to buy the spare parts it needed to repair its ageing buses and metro trains.
Italian newspapers reported that broken down buses were being left in the street because Atac had not paid the private contractor which it uses to pick up its stranded vehicles.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Raggi offered the usual platitudes…
“‘The situation at Atac is serious, but we are not frightened by adversity and we will move ahead,’ said Raggi on Facebook.”
To be sure, Atac has been a shambles for years. And while the transportation difficulties have engendered dissatisfaction with Raggi, it’s unclear if the incident will negatively impact the five-star movement’s electoral chances. Italian voters have a reputation for being mercurial. Case in point: The center-right party of Prime Minister and billionaire media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, who suffered through a series of scandals during his time in office, is leading the 2018 polls with 30% of the vote,according to CNBC.