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Plans Continued or Delayed?: Future of tram projects in Italy following COVID-19 [free access]

June 1, 2020

Italy is one of the worst affected countries by the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2020, the European Commission forecasted that Italy’s public debt would hit almost 158.9 per cent of GDP by the end of this year and that its economy would shrink by almost a tenth. The gross public debt is predicted to drop to 153.6 per cent in 2021, but the recovery is forecast to take longer.


Given these negative projections, funding for and investment in various sectors (including local public transport) is expected to be affected. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport (MIT) has not cancelled any federal funding so far and the local authorities are still applying for funding under various national schemes. The drying up of funding is more likely to be felt at the state and local levels.


Planned tram projects in the country


In the last 150 years, around 284 tram systems were developed in Italy. Today, only 14 tram systems are operational. Operations on around 269 systems were suspended before 2000. Only one tram system was closed in 2011 (Milano-Carate/Giussano Tramway).


With increasing population and rising demand, several city authorities (especially those of medium-sized cities) are planning to revive or rebuild their tram systems. A total of 100+ km and 180+ stops are planned to be developed as part of the tram network across six cities in Italy. These projects involve an investment of more than EUR2.1 billion. Most of the contracts for these projects are yet to be awarded. Table 1 provides details of these tram projects.


Table 1: Key planned tram projects                                                                                                                           



Stations/ stops

Planned investment (EUR million)


Expected date of completion

Bergamo Tramway




Under planning


Bologna Tramway, Red Line




Under planning. Major contracts are yet to be awarded.

January 2026

Bolzano Tramway




Under planning. Funding from national government is yet to be secured. Major contracts are yet to be awarded.

To be announced

Brescia Tramway




Under planning. Financial closure is yet to be secured.


Firenze Tramway




Under planning

2023 and onwards

Palermo Tramway




Under planning


Source: Global Mass Transit


Bergamo Tramway


In December 2019, the MIT allocated EUR125 million funding for the construction of the Bergamo–Villa d'Alme Tramway line T2. The line will cover 17 stations (including four existing stations of T1), as well as share the tracks of the Bergamo–Albino T1 line. It will be developed at an estimated investment of EUR178.5 million. The line will have an end-to-end journey time of 30 minutes.


The service on the entire tram network will be operated by a fleet of 25 trams, which will comprise 14 existing trams operating on Line T1 and 11 new trams of length 32 metres each and with a capacity of up to 239 passengers.


The project will be financed by the MIT (EUR125 million), the Lombardy Region (EUR40 million), and the Municipality and Province of Bergamo and by other municipalities affected by the route (EUR13.5 million). It is expected to have an estimated daily ridership of 15,000 passengers. The line will be completed by 2025.


Bologna Tramway


In March 2019, the city of Bologna announced plans to build a four-line tram network. The development of the tram system is a part of the city’s urban sustainable mobility plan. Systra, Sotecni, Architecna, and Studio Mattioli have prepared the technical and economic feasibility study for the project.


The first line, branded as the Red Line, will be developed on a priority basis. It will span 16.5 kmfrom Borgo Panigale to the Agri-Food Centre of Bologna. An approximately 2-km-long section will feature catenary-free operations. The major contracts are expected to be awarded by end-2021, construction work is scheduled to begin by 2022, and passenger services are planned to commence by 2026.


Ridership is expected to be 80,000 passengers per weekday. It is expected to increase to 105,000 passengers per weekday when all the four lines are operational.


The planned network will also comprise the Yellow Line (Casteldebole–Rastignano), the Green Line (Due Madonne–Corticella), and the Blue Line (Casalecchio–San Lazzaro). The system will be integrated with the existing urban public transport system as well as the commuter rail network.


Bolzano Tramway


In 2018, the provincial government of Trentino-Alto Adige and the Municipality of Bolzano signed an agreement to develop a tram line in Bolzano.


The Y-shaped east–west line will connect Ponte d'Adige, San Maurizio hospital and the railway station. The journey time for the San Maurizio hospital will be 19 minutes, with an average frequency of 10 minutes, and the journey time for Ponte Adige will be 21 minutes, with an average frequency of 30 minutes.


The service will be operated on two routes through a fleet of 15 bi-directional trams. Of the total length, a 1.3-km-long section will feature catenary-free operations.


The total project cost is EUR192 million, of which EUR125 million is the construction cost and the remaining costs are for rolling stock, expropriation, compensation, technical matters, and any contingencies. The provincial government and the municipality will provide EUR40 million each, and the rest will be financedthrough special funds from the national government. State funding is yet to be approved.


In end-2018, a consortium led by Salcef had submitted a public–private partnership (PPP) proposal to the municipality and the provincial government. The consortium comprises Salcef Group (responsible for the construction of civil works, armament, and electric traction), RATP DEV Italy (responsible for operations), CAF (responsible for the supply of rolling stock and the signalling system), and Architecna (responsible for design). The proposal was rejected by the provinciall government.


Brescia Tramway


The project involves development of a 23-km-long three-line tram network, of which around 35 per cent will be located in a reserved lane. The three lines that are planned to be developed are:



A fleet of 20 trams is planned to be deployed. Service frequency will be 15 minutes. The trams will be powered by overhead catenary except in the central sections where the trams will be powered through batteries.


The Municipality of Brescia had requested a public contribution of 49 per cent (maximum) of the total investments from the MIT. The authority had applied for funding under the MIT’s financing package of EUR2.3 billion to finance mass public transport systems in large cities. The results were announced in December 2019 and the authority did not receive the funding due to gaps in the documentation. It can re-apply by mid-2020 to secure the funds.


Firenze Tramway


The existing system comprises two lines, Line T1 Leonardo and Line T2 Vespucci. The following lines are under planning:



Palermo Tramway


The existing tram network comprises four lines which together span around 18 km. The city government plans to develop three new lines, which will together span 24 km and cover 48 stops. The project also includes the development of two tramway tunnels, construction of six new electrical substations, adaptation of three road junctions, and building of seven interchange car parkingfacilities with 2,237 new parking spaces.As of May 2020, the approval of the final design is in progress.


Further, the city government plans to develop Phase II, which will comprise the development of an additional four lines. These lines are the 9.4-km Line D (Orleans–Bonagia); the 23-km Line E2 (Zen–Mondello); the 9.6-km Line F (Central Station–Ducadella Verdura); and the 5.5-km Line G (Scalea–Sferracavallo).The city government had requested a contribution of EUR478 million under the MIT’s financing package of EUR2.3 billion. The results were announced in December 2019 and the authority did not receive the funding due to gaps in the documentation. Also, no strategic environmental assessment has been performed for the projects mentioned in Phase II. The city government can re-apply by mid-2020 to secure the funds.


Rome Tramway


In June 2020, the MIT signed a decree to finance EUR213 million for Rome Tramway Line G (Termini–Giardinetti–Tor Vergata). The funds have been allocated to redevelop and extend the section of the existing Rome–Pantano railway line and to transfer the ownership of the rail line from the Lazio Region to the Municipality of Rome.


Support from MIT


In December 2019, the MIT allocated EUR2.32 billion for 17 urban public transport projects. These funds will be allocated for investment in the development of new metro lines, tramways, and trolleybuses as well as for the procurement of new rolling stock. Of the total amount, around 57 per cent of the funds (EUR1.31 billion) were allocated for the development of nine tram projects in five cities. Table 2 provides the details of the allocated funds.


Table 2: Funds allocated by MIT for tram projects in December 2019



Project details

Project cost (EUR million)

Funds allocated by MIT (EUR million)


Municipality of Bergamo

Construction of Line T2 and procurement of 11 trams of 32 metres length




Municipality of Bologna

Construction of Red Line as well as procurement of rolling stock




Municipality of Florence

Extension of Line 3, Section Libertà–Bagno a Ripoli(3.2.1)




Roma Capitale

Acquisition of rolling stock (50 units of 24 metres)



Development of tramway through le Palmiro Togliatti, between Ponte Mammolo MB and Piazza di Cinecittà, as well as purchase of 20 cars equipped with on-board batteries or supercapacitors for autonomous traction



Tramway connection of 1 km from Piazzale del Verano to the square of Stazione Tiburtina with reuse of the existing mobility corridor




Municipality of Turin

Purchase of 40 new tramways in two lots (30 units and 10 units)



Extension of tramway Line 10 to connectCorso Giulio Cesare, Cecchi, and Corso Emilia



Construction of  terminus in Corso Quintino Sella and return loop in Largo Toselli for Line 3



Source: MIT, Global Mass Transit


Moving ahead


With the easing of lockdowns and the re-opening of businesses in Italy, progress is expected on the development of the tramway projects. Recently, in June 2020, the MIT signed a decree to finance EUR213 million for Rome Tramway, which is a step forward for the tram projects under development in Italy. The projects for which central funding has been secured are likely to be continued. However, the projects that were waiting funding approval from the central government are likely to be delayed or cancelled.


(1 EUR [Euro] = 1.11 USD)