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Milano: Metrotramvia is a brand new buzz word

From Eurotrams through to Sirios... C.J. Wansbeek provides an update on travel improvements designed to keep this northern Italian city mobile.

Substantially upgraded in 1998, Malpensa is a very large airport, lying 45 km north-west of the city of Milano. The terminal building is spacious and attractive. All over the place, clear signs show the way. The airport train, Malpensa Express, cannot be missed. The 2-track rail station is under the roof of the airport terminal. This is the end of a 13-km connecting line from Busto Arsizio to the airport, built in 1999, for a direct rail link between Malpensa and the city. A return ticket costs EUR 12.

The new Sirio low-floor trams from AnsaldoBreda underwent extensive testing before entering passenger service in Milano. Here is 7101 near Gratosoglio on the long southern line served by routes 3 and 15. (P. Ehrlich

Operated by the semi-private FNM, Ferrovia Nord Milano Esercizio, the regional railway supported by the province of Lombardia, new double-deck trains in green FMN livery leave every thirty minutes in both directions, partially over ill-maintained FNM tracks which cause a bumpy ride. The single-class express trains reach the city centre in 40 minutes, at Stazione Nord Cadorna, a modest 8-track stub station for commuter lines, where there is interchange (but not under the same roof) with metro lines 1 and 2, as well as tram routes 1 and 27.

Malpensa has taken over most international flights from Milano-Linate airport, much closer to the city centre, but incapable of expansion. In the future Linate, located in the south-eastern area of the town and never equipped with a railway connection, will probably be closed and used for urban redevelopment.

Peter Witt car on Via Manzoni, with a 4900-series caught in the traffic behind. Metrotrnvie lines should avoid this narrow street track with mixed traffic. (C. J. Wansbeek

With Malpensa now fully operational, Milano has become Alitalia’s world hub, and Roma plays second fiddle. The Milano airport express should, under earlier plans, have had its terminus at Stazione Milano Centrale, but during the planning process, it was found out that this would have involved a series of awkward crossings of other rail lines, so it was decided to create a terminus at FNM’s quiet Nord Cadorna station.

National railways are part of the changing panorama. Unlike Roma and most other Italian cities, Milano is well-served by electric railways from all directions. This asset is being strengthened, with the creation of the east-west underground Passante. The western segment of the Passante was inaugurated in December 1997. It runs between the stations “Bovisa-Certosa”, across the central area, to the station “Dateo”. This enables the FS and FNM trains coming from the north and the west to penetrate deep into Milano.

The eastern segment will be inaugurated in 2004. This will run from Porta Venezia to Stazione Porta Vittoria. Once completed over its full 10.5 km length, the 2-track Passante tunnel will enable trains coming from all directions to run underneath Milano, on their way to other parts of the region and the country.

The Passante is a joint achievement of FS (State railways), FNM, the city of Milano and the province of Lombardia. Soon, it will become Italy’s heaviest rail axis, connecting with all three Milano metro lines and several tramlines at its four underground stations in the city centre. Possibly, the Malpensa Express will be re-routed through the Passante tunnel.

A fast way to travel

City transport is also undergoing major improvements, to strengthen Milano’s drive for international competitiveness. Trams remain essential for a proper functioning of this city, reaching nearly all parts. Milano’s trams continue to offer a fast service over short distances. Despite many changes taking place, the urban tramways have been kept intact in recent years, with modest extensions. Part of the reason is to combat pollution. Smog is often so intense that sometimes the inner city has to be sealed off to car traffic. At such times, trams are a necessity of life. Since two years, The tramway system has been undergoing major upgrading for two years; several lines will be rebuilt into Metrotramvia lines, i.e. express tramlines, with metro-like capacity and reliability.

70 years of tramway design meet in Milano as a Eurotram on route 14 passes a Peter Witt car. (M. R. Taplin
Gone forever since closure in 1999, the former interurban tram terminus at via Valtellina. (C. J. Wansbeek

City transport, including the metro, is in the hands of ATM, Azienda Trasporti Milanesi, which serves Milano and 85 surrounding self-governing communities, with a total surface of 1 052 sq km. Within this vast area live three million people. Demographic changes are enormous; people increasingly prefer to live in suburbs, further away from the kernel city. This means that commuters travel longer distances, but, unfortunately, there is an unsolved controversy between local governments, which have trouble in paying ATM subsidy for the new rail and bus services required now that “their” commuters have to travel longer distances.

However, thanks to ATM’s lobbying, within a vast perimeter, access to the inner city has been limited thanks to the introduction of the on-road automobile parking fee, with the exception of automobiles belonging to residents of the city centre. Whilst the inner city is less kept open for those who have a reason to drive around there, commuters are now forced to rely on public transportation. For ATM, this is a battle won. The backgrounds were described in an article on Milano in this magazine’s September 1998 issue.

ATM is a business giant, with 503 million passengers carried over its city lines in the year 2000. There are 16 city tram routes (total length 171 km), 53 city bus routes (total length 422 km), 3 trolleybus lines (total length 40 km), 44 interurban bus lines, and three metro lines with a total length of 69 km, of which 21 km are outside the city limits. There are now 84 metro stations. At close proximity of metro stations, there are 13 P+R sites, offering 14 000 parking spaces.

Trolleybuses are mainly used for circle line 90/91, which, according to plans drawn up in the 1970s, should have become a circular tram line long ago. To this end, one hundred 4800 class trams were ordered. The plan flopped, and trolleybus operation was maintained. At present, there is a fleet of 144 trolleybuses at hand, including 74 articulated, and the overhead tension is 600 V, the same as for the trams. The future of ATM’s trolleybus system is secured, and in 1997, eight new trolleybuses were delivered by Autodromo NGT. Hard to believe in a country, which has lost much of its interest in trolleybuses, the Municipality of Milan and ATM are currently planning to extend the trolleybus lines to the southern and western parts of Milano.

Withdrawn within the city, perhaps forever, are the last two remaining interurban tramlines running to the north-west of Milano with a total length of 24.7 km. Segments of these lines will be revitalised however, and will be incorporated into the future Metrotramvia express tramway network currently under construction.

Milano tram routes December 2002
1Greco – Piazza Castelli
2Bignami – Piazza Negrelli
3Messina – Gratosoglio
4Ospedale Maggiore – Monte Velino
5Ortica – Stazione Centrale
7Piazzale Lagosta – Largo Mattei (–Precotto)
9Stazione Porta Genova – Stazione Centrale
11Bignami – Lambrate
12Roserio – Viale Molise
14Cimitero Maggiore – Lorenteggio
15Duomo – Rozzano
19Duomo – Roseria
23Piazza Fontana – Stazione Lambrate
24Axum – Vicentino – Via Noto
27Ungheria – Piazza 6 Febbraio
29Circolare, anti-clockwise
30Circolare, clockwise
33Cacciatori delle Alpi – Lambrate

The metro, standard-gauge like the trams of ATM, is conceived as both a city system, and as a suburban network, as parts of it have been laid over alignments of former interurban tramlines to Gorgonzola and Cologno. Metro line 1 opened in 1964, metro line 2 in 1969. Metro line 3 opened in 1990. The metro network is still being expanded, and there is thought of creating two additional metro lines. One between Lorenteggio and Linate. This line will see the light after the closure of the old airport at Linate. The Linate area will be redeveloped as a new residential district. A fifth metro line is appearing on the drawing boards, as a link between the Porta Garibaldi Station (on the Passante tunnel line) and the town of Monza, north-east of Milano. Five metro extensions are currently under construction:

Line 1: Molino Dorino – Rho Fiera (4 km), 3 stations, ready 2004
Line 1: Sesto FS - Monza (6 km), 4 stations, ready 2005
Line 2: Famagosta - Assago (4.7 km), 2 stations, ready 2004
Line 2: Famagosta – Abbiategrasso (1 km), 1 station, ready 2003
Line 3: Maciachini – Comasina (4.5 km), 4 stations, ready 2005

None of these metro extensions will lead to the closure or curtailment of an existing tramway. On the contrary, the extension of metro line 2 from Famagosta to Abbiategrasso will greatly strengthen the role of the future Metrotramvia Sud express tramway, which will replace today’s tram route 15, in the southern districts of Milano. At Abbiategrasso, metro line 2 will meet the Metrotramvia Sud line.

Remarkable is the ATM-operated automatic mini-metro line, which covers the distance of 0.7 km between Gobba (station on metro line 2) and the San Raffaele Hospital, in east Milano. It was inaugurated in 1999.

Peter Witts to Eurotrams

City tram fleet of Milano
1501-2002:4-axle Peter Witt trams, also known as Milano class, built 1927-1930. Some 150 units still in service, many refurbished
4601-4613:Stanga-built articulated trams, built 1955
4714-4733:Stanga/Breda-built articulated trams as 4600 class, but with improved electrics. Built 1957-60. Together with the 4600 class mainly in service on circle line 29/30
4801-4844:ATM-built in 1970-195, these double-articulated trams were built using earlier vehicles
4900-4999:Fiat/Stanga built 1976/7, double-articulated so-called Jumbo Tram
7000-7026:100% low-floor Eurotrams, built 1999-2002 by Bombardier (previously Adtranz), in service mainly on route 14
7101-7158:AnsaldoBreda 7-section 34 m long Sirio, for use on Metrotranvia lines, in first instance upgraded route 15. Delivery started in 2002.
7201-7235:AnsdaldoBreda 5-section 25 m long Sirio. Delivery to start in 2004. These short Sirios will replace the trams of class 4600 and 4700 on the circle tramline 29/30.
 ATM also has is a fleet of 105 interurban trams (lines to Desio and Limbiate), including 73 trailers, but most of these are mothballed

The tram fleet comprises some 400 cars. There are still a large number of 1930s Peter Witt bogie cars in service, and a number of these will be kept in serviceable condition for the foreseeable future. 1960s six-axle articulated cars run the circle services 29/30. Dating from the 1970s are double-articulated trams of the 4800 class. These are big trams (rebuilt from 1950s bogie cars), known as Jumbos. More modern is the eight-axle 4900 class, new in the 1970s. In 1996, for the first time in twenty years, ATM was authorised to order new trams, a fleet of 26 five-section low-floor Eurotrams, of the same design as the Adtranz (now Bombardier) trams for Strasbourg (France) and Porto (Portugal).

The Eurotrams meant a breakthrough in the quality offered to Milano tram passengers, with easy access, better comfort and much lower noise level than the older trams. In March 2002, the 26th and last was delivered after final assembly by Firema It is a sad thing that the Eurotram, which gained such enormous popularity at Strasbourg, did not fully-satisfy ATM.

In March 2002, ATM presented the first of 58 low-floor seven-section single-ended Sirios ordered from AnsaldoBreda. The Sirios are meant for service on the Metrotramvia or express tram lines. The Sirios, in a striking green livery, are fully air-conditioned. Door access height is just 350 mm above track level. The 35.5-m long Sirio can carry 285 passengers, of whom 71 can be seated on hard, plastic seats. Apart from the 58 seven-section Sirios, numbered in the 7100 series, ATM also has on order a total of 35 five-section Sirios, for use on the circular tramline 29/30. The five-section Sirios will be numbered in the 7200 series and replace trams of the 4600/4700 class in the next few years.

Four new lines

Metrotramvia is the new magic word. In 1999, approval was given for ATM to build a total of four Metrotramvia lines, and this is now taking place. The idea to create such lines came when metro line 3 was being built in the 1980s, going from the south-east to the city centre. A typical radial line, which logically should have been extended to the north-west, continuing as a radial line. However, during the planning process, it was discovered that, going to the north-west, line 3 would have to be split, in the form of a two-pronged fork, given the dispersion of the population in that part of the city. But such a heavy metro line proved unaffordable. Then the idea was raised to build one branch in the form of a supertram, the future Metrotramvia, says Dott. Ing. Stefano Milanesi, ATM’s Director of Infrastructure Planning.

In 2000, ATM was given approval to go ahead with the concept. These three new lines will be served by the new low-floor Sirio trams. They will be express routes, yet they will include street sections. From what Dr Milanesi told this author, it is not ATM’s intention to regard Metrotramvia as a network within a network. Nor will its lines form a new, coherent network, with through-going services. Rather, it means the creation of new high-performance tramlines, partially over existing tracks. There will be no separation of Metrotramvia lines and existing tramlines. ATM will not change the nature of tramway operation.

This is in contrast with development in another major tram city, Rotterdam, which is currently building a five-line TramPlus network, partially by upgrading existing tramlines, partially by constructing new rail lines. A set of criteria has been defined to which TramPlus lines should meet, such as increase speed, increased capacity, better passenger comfort and information. At Milano, the Metrotramvia concept is not linked to such a well-defined, publicly-announced set of quality standards, nor is the Milano public educated that it should expect abetter quality on such lines.

Metrotramvia may come in the form of four or five surface lines, three of which have been approved so far. Such lines are marked by a transport demand varying between 5 000 and 10 000 passengers per direction per hour at peaks. The Sirios for the Metrotramvia lines are in line with the concept: high-capacity vehicles, of a striking design, 100% low-floor, enabling fast entrance and quick alighting, a lifting platform for the disabled and sophisticated technology providing noiseless movement of the vehicles.

Progress report

Progress with the Metrotramvia lines is as follows:

Plans for three more Metrotramvia lines are being prepared:

Peter Witt tram near entrance of metro lines 1 and 2, at Piazza Cadorna. The terminus of the Malpensa Express to the airport is located underneath the building seen in the background. (C. J. Wansbeek
A rear view of the single-ended seven-section Sirio at Gratosoglio. (P. Ehrlich

All these plans mean the through the northern flank of Milano, a long semi-circular Metrotramvia line will be built in stages, it will link up with several metro lines, and it will greatly reinforce the urban coherence of this part of the city, says Dr. Milanesi of ATM, who underlines that the entire situation is still fluid, and that new plans are continuously being proposed.

Roberto Massetti, Director General of ATM

The author thanks Roberto Massetti, Director General of ATM, Azienda Trasporti Milanesi S.p.A., for his kind assistance with the preparation of this article.

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