In 1994, a merger took place between Atac, the authority operating surface transport, and Cotral, the operator of metro, regional bus and some suburban railways.

Trams carry approximately 75 million people per year in the city, but the success of the more modern metro is illustrated by the fact that this is now carrying 230 million people per year, representing massive growth since its inception in 1990.

At the same time, tram routes had been gradually phased out over the previous decade, so that, by early 2000, just a single 18km stretch of track remained, from a street close to the main Stazione Termini heavy rail terminus, to the eastern suburb of Pantano Borghese.

The Rome light rail and tram system

A sea change in the development of the city’s light-rail system came in 1998, with the opening of a 5.4km extension to route eight, from Casaletto, through the city centre, to Largo de Torre Argentina, a major square in the central western district, across the Ponte Garibaldi.

Links to the Vatican City have been greatly improved, with the opening of a westward extension to metro line A, from Ottaviano in the Vatican, to Valle Aurelia. This was further extended in January 2000, via Cornelia to Battistini.

Infrastructure

At present, the city operates six tram routes, operating over 48.1km, 36km of which is double-track.

Metro line A’s extension in 2000, mentioned above, brought with it the opening of an improved terminus at Valle Aurelia, creating a major interchange between line A and the Roma-Cesano suburban heavy-rail route.

Rolling stock

The first step in modernisation was taken in 1990, when the first six-axle, part low-floor trams were delivered, by native train-building SOCIMI. These, though, proved unreliable and technically primitive.

Only 35 of a planned fleet of 60 were delivered when SOCIMI went bust, and this led to a shortage of trams. Ten of this ill-fated batch of trams, built from pre-assembled components, only partly eased the capacity problems.

Better luck was experienced with a second order for new trams, placed with FIAT in 1997. Of this order, 28 articulated, double-ended units, with 70% low-floor area, are in service. Now referred to as the FIAT-I class, these are closely based on the 5000-series trams built for Torino.

An option of 50 more FIAT-I trams was not exercised, but 50 new low-floor 9200-series trams were instead entering service from early 2000. Of a modular design, these 100% low-floor cars will be delivered in two formats, 41.5m and 33m long, with seven and five sections respectively. In addition, more than 80 old-style articulated trains remain in service, most of which date from between 1947 and 1950.

Signalling and communications

Tram, metro and heavy rail systems operate on completely separate systems, and the new routes are largely segregated from adjoining roads, which have been made one way.

The new 9200 series trams have a sophisticated communication system, including closed-circuit TV monitoring of alighting and joining passengers at all stations. They are fitted with an automatic train protection system, and drivers get a running report on the status of the track ahead via VDUs in the cab. Control centre staff can also communicate directly with drivers in emergencies.

The future

Route eight is being extended eastwards in two stages, which will make the route the backbone of the tram system.

Work was set to start in 2001 on a 500m extension from Largo di Torre Argentina to Piazza Venezia, and once this is completed, Route eight will be extended westwards from Casaletto to Piazzi Guireconsulti, 4km away.

Work on a future metro line three, running east-west through the city centre, was planned in 2002. To be built in seven segments, this will run from Pantano in the east to Vigna Clara, a total length of almost 30km.