LRTA logo Light Rail Transit Association
Light Rail for better public transport

Milan Tramways Revisited

Video presentation by Phil Craig, 10th September 2003

An American LRTA member working as a consultant in the U.K.

The video was shot during visits to Milan in March 2002 and March 2003. Milan is situated in North Central Italy and has an urban population of 1.305m, with a further 1.543m living in the suburbs. The public transport operator was formed in 1917 as Azienda Transporti Municipali (ATM). In 1999 it was renamed Aziendi Transporti Milanese.

Phil drew comparisons with his earlier visits to the city in 1968 and 1992. At his first visit there was only one Metro line working out of four planned. There were 25 urban and 5 interurban tramlines, both of which faced an uncertain future. There were over 500 Peter Witt cars supplemented by the 4600 series cars delivered between 1956-60.

By his second visit in 1992 there were three metro lines in operation and the tramway system had been reduced to 18 urban lines and two interurban lines. The fleet of Peter Witt trams had been culled to 250 cars. The last new trams of the 4900 series had been delivered in 1978. The planned fourth metro line was likely to lead to further tramway abandonment and the interurban lines were scheduled to close by 2000.

At the time of his visit in March 2002 Metropolitana Line 3 had been extended north west from Zara to Maciachini and Comasina and one further urban tram route had closed. The two remaining interurban lines had been cut back from the central area and isolated from one another. The 75 year old Peter Witt fleet had reduced to 180. On the positive side 26 Adtranz built 7000 series Eurotrams had been delivered in 2001-2002 and were in use on route 14. 58 conceptually similar "Sirio" trams were on order from Ansoldo Breda the first of which had been delivered. An upgraded tramway called Metrotramvia Sud had opened in 1992-1995 and was operated by routes 3 and 15.

During his visit in March 2003 Phil found that the first segment of Metrotramvia Bicocca had opened on 7th December 2002 and was being operated by route 7 using 7000 and 4800 series cars. A westerly extension of lines 9 and 33 taking them over FS tracks had also opened in 2002. The number of tram services had risen to 18 with the two cut-back interurban lines still in use. A total of 150 Peter Witt cars remained in use with delivery in hand of the 58 Ansoldo 7100 series cars, one of which was in service on route 15. Construction work was in hand on for a new inner portion of Metrotramvia Sud and Metrotramvia Nord was being built along the closed inner portion of the Desio interurban line, through Niguarda as well as relocation of the interurban around Desio town centre.

ATM have identified 4 to 5 corridors which have transport demand between 5000 and 10,000 travellers per hour per direction in the peak period. They propose to build light railways along these corridors to be worked with low floor "Sirio" trams.

Compared with 1968 the future of Milan’s tramway system seems assured for many years to come. It demonstrates the effectiveness of traditional street running trams. The tram system is no longer marked for phase out and is being expanded as funding becomes available. Additional modern urban trams will be purchased to retire the 4600 and 4800 class trams. At the same time it is expected that some of the venerable Peter Witt trams will see a century of service. The former interurbans to Desio and Limbiate have been earmarked to become the beginnings of a system of suburban light rail lines.

The presentation was originally filmed in NTSC digital format and thanks go to Alan Pearce for helping to edit and convert the original material to VHS PAL to enable the audience to savour the sights and sounds of traditional trams running alongside modern light rail vehicles.

London Area – Wednesday 10th September 2003

Milan Tramways Revisited: top of page