The history of Ferrovie dello Stato (State Railways) is intertwined with the history of Italy’s development and with policies that profoundly influenced the country’s economy, social relations, and even geography. In 1985, with law 210/85, the Azienda Autonoma FS was transformed into a public authority. In reality, it had been autonomous only in the sense of being able to make decisions regarding transportation (of goods and passengers), organization of services, and physical maintenance. But, economically and administratively, it depended entirely upon the Ministry of Transportation. Between 1986 and 1995, FS underwent internal restructuring every three years. In 2000, Trenitalia was created from the joining of three divisions—Passengers, Regional Transport, and Cargo and Infrastructures—together with the Technological Unit and Rolling Stock. Trenitalia’s “mission” was “to design and supply services for the mobility of people and goods.” On July 1, 2001, the Infrastructure division became RFI—Rete Ferroviaria Italiana—a “society called to manage the movement of trains and the railway infrastructure.” In the decade from 1991 to 2002, numerous other societies were born within Ferrovie dello Stato: Metropolis, for the real estate assets, GrandiStazioni for the 13 largest Italian train stations, CentoStazioni for the nation’s 103 “minor” stations, the TAV project company for high-speed trains, and finally Italferr, with the task of launching FS internationally.
Today, the society, run by Mauro Moretti, must deal with competition from Luca Cordero di Montezemolo’s Nuovo Treno Veloce (NTV), and with flights from low-cost companies on the Milan-Rome route. In any case, competition on the tracks has been good for FS: the enormous improvement in the quality of its offerings with the launching of the new Frecciarossa fast trains “created” six million new passengers in just one year, and the price of tickets dropped an average of 30 percent compared to 2011. For now, the contest on the railways remains an uneven matchup: behind Frecciarossa there is a public society with 8 billion euro in sales volume and a patrimony that—between real estate, networks, international growth, and high-speed—exceeds 30 billion, according to most observers. By contrast, NTV is a luxury start-up company that has seen the French railways unite with big names in business (Diego Della Valle in addition to Montezemolo) and Italian finance (Generali and IntesaSanpaolo). In response to the appearance of low-cost airline EasyJet on the Fiumicino-Linate route, Moretti’s FS is engaging in a battle of super low ticket prices.
In the meantime, however, basic services—those impacting the daily life of millions of commuters—still present numerous critical situations. Many regional trains and intermediate stops have been cancelled. And despite the big promotions on long-distance trains, the prices on the most-utilized routes—those for local transportation—have gone up.