"From FS work started for 12 billion, ready to manage more European resources"
ROME. If the government intends to divert part of the Pnrr funds to large infrastructure projects, the railways are ready "to evaluate new opportunities". In the meantime, however, the Group has already put out tenders for over 50% of the 24.6 billion in European funds that have been assigned to it, assures the CEO of the FS Group Luigi Ferraris. According to which, in order to speed up the construction of infrastructures, it is necessary to design and build the works in full and not in batches like today.
To "save" the Pnrr, many investments are being reviewed, giving priority to the larger ones. Are you ready to accept this challenge?
«In reality, we accepted this challenge right away, we are tackling it with determination and with the convinced support of the government. We are therefore available to evaluate new opportunities as well, such as on the connectivity front. Consider that most of the approximately 26 billion that the Pnrr has assigned to the FS Group are already concentrated on what you call "large investments". In fact, over 14 billion are earmarked for the start-up or completion of major strategic works such as the Naples-Bari, Palermo-Catania-Messina, Salerno-Reggio Calabria, Brescia-Verona-Vicenza, the Terzo Valico dei Giovi and the connection of Verona with the Brenner. We also have another 3 billion already contracted for the extension of ERTMS technology throughout Italy. The total value of the works that RFI is currently carrying out is 22 billion, of which 9.28 billion come from Pnrr funds. And within the year, again with Rrfi, we count on starting other works for a value of over 11 billion, almost 5 from Pnrr funds».
But what about letting go of smaller investments, which are the subject of a close "confrontation" in the government these days?
"These are assessments and decisions that are the responsibility of the Government".
As Fs on the Pnrr how have you handled so far?
«Up to now respecting the time schedule requested by the European Union. And it wasn't easy, when those time limits were set, no one could have foreseen what happened next, the war in Ukraine, the soaring costs of raw materials, the supply difficulties. Consider that of the over 24 billion in Pnrr funds held by Rfi, as at 31 March 2023, 5.6 billion had already been accounted for, i.e. over 23% of the allocated resources. And to date, the tenders already awarded are worth 12.7 billion, or more than 50% of those funds».
Due to the long times the Rome-Pescara and the Orte-Falconara lines are at risk of cancellation.
«On the Orte-Falconara there is a single lot financed by the Pnrr and in these days the process is being perfected to allow the publication of the tender notice for the contract by mid-June. For the Roma-Pescara the services conference has ended and we are counting on going to the tender by June».
Tlet's go back to connectivity projects. What is it about?
«Our industrial plan envisages the upgrading of the mobile radio coverage systems in the tunnels and the general optimization of the signal of the Telco operators along the entire high-speed section as well as the launch of projects concerning connectivity along the entire network. The protocol signed with the Ministries of Infrastructure and Enterprise and with the Department for Digital Transformation goes in this direction which, working alongside us, are investing 550 million Pnrr funds to accelerate the spread of ultra-fast networks (fibre and 5G) throughout the country . A project that will bring benefits both to those traveling by train and to vast areas, including rural ones, and to productive activities, such as those in the agri-food sector».
The realization of the works suffers from delays and setbacks. How to solve the problem?
«Much has been done, by the previous and by the current executive. The most delicate steps always concern the authorization process and, immediately afterwards, the execution of the work, from planning to construction, which require the specialized work of engineers, geologists, site managers, and then carpenters and construction workers. Here, in a temporal perspective that goes beyond the Pnrr, a change of pace of the entire country system is needed, which must learn to plan infrastructure better. It would be strategic to design and build the works considering them in their entirety, and not just for successive lots and, why not, imagining changing the rules on the model applied to energy infrastructures».
Speaking of large infrastructures, the Messina Bridge. What do you think of the resumption of the project?
«The bridge is an integral part of one of the most important European corridors of the TEN-T network, which connects Scandinavia with the Mediterranean, reaching Palermo on one side and Bari on the other. On this there is full agreement with the government and the 'EU. The technicians are already working on what needs to be updated with respect to the current project, the goal is to do it well and quickly».
Let's talk about services: inconveniences have grown recently on local and high-speed lines. What are you doing to remedy this situation?
«While we are working on new works, we need to change pace in terms of the efficiency and reliability of the entire system: I asked the Group companies that manage our infrastructures for this. This year, 7 billion will be allocated to the maintenance of roads and railways. Then it is necessary to arrive at an ever greater separation of train flows, according to their different characteristics, to prevent any technical problem, especially if it occurs in certain points of the network, from causing chain inconvenience to the entire circulation. It is necessary to reduce until the elimination of bottlenecks and interferences along the network and in the entry and exit from city nodes, between freight, regional and HS trains. We need to specialize the lines, making trains with identical characteristics circulate on them, and also the stations, given that we have splendid stations designed for the network and high-speed trains». —