Guardians of Mobility: from the front lines in Milan, Italy

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There are many “unsung heroes” in times of crisis, and we recognise that our public transport professionals are some of them. Our ‘Guardians of Mobility’, are an integral part of the front liners keeping essential services available throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the course of these next few weeks, we will be sharing stories from our own community on what’s being done to keep public transport operations running around the world, and to shed a little light on our sector’s contribution to fighting this pandemic.

Today, we hear from ATM Milan sharing experiences from Italy.

ATM Milan

While the pandemic finally seems to be showing signs of slowing down across most of Europe, the road to recovery for public transport companies is still long and daunting. Back in the north of Italy, another member working hard to keep the front lines moving throughout this unprecedented situation is ATM Milan, leading Italian public transport operator, moving around 2.5 million passengers per day.

“The ATM Milan staff are carrying out crucial services with great responsibility and sense of duty”, said Arrigo Giana, CEO of ATM Milan.

From the very beginning of the outbreak, ATM has kept staff informed about new hygiene measures in compliance with the Italian National Health Institute, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Wherever possible, staff have been asked to work remotely, while front line staff were given protective kits including gloves, masks and an alcohol-based sanitising solution for situations where social distance cannot be guaranteed. Surface areas and all vehicles are regularly disinfected to prevent the spread of the virus, and passengers are asked to use the rear and middle doors to enter vehicles.

The challenge after the emergency will be to ‘maximise the flexibility’ of the transport service offer

At this stage, especially as Italy and many other countries begin to plan how to gradually end the lockdown, social distancing measures will remain one of the most important means of preventing another surge in the outbreak.

“We know that it will take time to go back to ‘business-as-usual’ and probably some of the changes we are introducing now will become part of our regular life”, said Giana. “The challenge after the emergency will be to ‘maximise the flexibility’ of the transport service offer”.

As it currently stands, ATM has struggled to reduce its transport services to 75% of their regular offer, while in the metro network, ridership has decreased to around 5% of the usual passengers. In this way, they can guarantee enough space for at least 1 metre of distance between passengers.

“This is quite an oversized effort compared to the level of ridership”, said Giana. “But we feel it is an essential measure to allow people to travel safely by keeping the necessary social distance from one another.”

The company has launched a campaign with on-board signage to remind passengers to maintain 1 metre distance from each other, and not to sit or stand in big crowds on station platforms. ATM is still working out some initiatives that will need to be implemented in the future so they can anticipate, prevent and quickly react to crowding on vehicles, at metro stations or on bus platforms.

“It’s an incredibly huge challenge for our sector, but we are confident that we’ll manage to find a way,” said Giana, “thanks to the commitment, competence, and professionalism of all our people and to the support of our shareholder, the Municipality of Milan.”

It’s an incredibly huge challenge for our sector, but we are confident that we’ll manage to find a way

While keeping so much of the service offer available with virtually zero ticket sales shows extraordinary dedication, ATM knows that this situation is not sustainable in the long-term.

“It is crucial that the National Government allocate resources to support public transport companies”, said Giana (who is also Chairman of Agens, the Italian association that represents transport operators and services). “More than 1,000 companies, over 120 thousand employees and their families: these are the numbers at stake.”

Public transport is needed now more than ever, and our Guardians of Mobility at ATM Milan have certainly done their part to keep essential services running for the sake of their community. We thank them for this dedication!


UITP has released an open letter to European Institutions to advocate for the necessary role of public transport in revitalising the European economy. Read more here!

Missed our story from FGC? Catch up here!

UITP is doing its part to support the public transport sector in this unprecedented time. Please see our dedicated webpage on all of our activities surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic for more information on what's available. 

Stay tuned to hear more stories from the front lines around the world…

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