05/12/2023 04:35:00

  "Sicilian Railways: Struggling Infrastructure Amidst Ponte Sullo Stretto Plans"

The Sicilian railway system, with its sluggish pace akin to a bicycle, has come under scrutiny by the Observatory on Italian Public Accounts. Directed by Carlo Cottarelli, the organization, in collaboration with Leoluca Virgadamo, conducted a study revealing the dismal state of Sicilian railways. This revelation unfolds as the Meloni government and Minister Matteo Salvini advocate strongly for the Ponte Sullo Stretto (Bridge over the Strait). However, dissenting voices, as witnessed in a recent Messina demonstration, question the utility of a €14 billion bridge when local transport infrastructure, both roads and railways, is in dire condition.

Challenges and Critiques:
The study from the observatory emphasizes the importance of local transport networks for regional development. It questions the rationale behind investing in the Ponte Sullo Stretto when Sicily's roads and railways are in poor condition. Two glaring examples are cited: the prolonged Palermo-Messina doubling works and the interrupted maintenance of the Palermo-Trapani route since 2013 due to a landslide, forcing connections to Trapani through Castelvetrano, significantly increasing travel distances.

Sicilian Rail Network Overview:
The Sicilian railway network, constituting 8% of the national network with 1,370 km, is classified as "complementary," primarily for regional connections. Only 16% of these tracks are double, compared to the national average of 46%. Additionally, 42% of regional routes are diesel-powered, in contrast to the national figure of 28%.

Punctuality and Speed:
Despite these challenges, Sicilian trains reportedly maintain punctuality levels comparable to the national average. In 2023, 95.5% of trains were reported as punctual, slightly higher than the national average of 94.4%. However, the study notes the absence of a reference threshold for calculating punctuality.

Speed Disparities:
Analyzing train speeds during specific time slots (8:00-9:00 and 14:00-15:00), Sicilian trains exhibit an average speed of 26 km/h, notably slower than the comparison regions of Piemonte and Tuscany. Particularly sluggish are connections to Trapani and Ragusa, with journey times as high as four to five hours for relatively short distances.

Infrastructure Investment and Challenges Ahead:
Amid assurances from the Meloni government regarding investments in Sicilian railways through PNRR funds within the Ponte Sullo Stretto project, the study paints a grim picture of the existing rail infrastructure. The ongoing projects, slated for completion by 2027, are ambitious, but until then, Sicilian railways continue to face substantial challenges.