MILAN may be Italy's second city after the capital Rome, but it is the country's commercial hub. This is reflected in the decision to host the Expo 2015 world fair in Milan, which opened on May 1 and will run until October 31. The city is also the venue for the International Public Transport Association's (UITP) 61st Congress and Exhibition which is being staged from June 8-10.

While the new metro Line 5 does not serve Rho Fiera, where Expo 2015 is being staged, the city was keen to complete the line in time for this major event as it is an important addition to Milan's public transport network and a key component of the strategy to carry as many visitors as possible to Expo by public transport. Rho Fiera is served by metro Line 1 and a main line station at which local, regional and long-distance trains will call. National and international high-speed services will also stop there during Expo.

The city had also hoped to complete the eastern section of the new Line 4 in time for Expo as this will connect Linate Airport to the metro network for the first time. However, the complexity of trying to organise funding and setting up a public-private company to implement the project proved too great and the deal was only finalised at the end of 2014.

metro 5Milan's first three lines are built to conventional heavy-metro standards. Having seen the success of fully-automatic lighter metro systems, such as Copenhagen's first line which uses Italian technology in the form of Ansaldo STS communications-based train control (CBTC) and AnsaldoBreda trains, Milan decided to adopt a similar solution for lines 5 and 4. The two Italian suppliers, which are now part of Hitachi Rail Europe, are heavily involved in both projects.

This means four-car articulated trains which are only 50m long compared with the 110m-long trains in service on lines 1, 2 and 3. But with headways of just 90 seconds, and a theoretical headway of 75 seconds, Line 5 is capable of carrying up to 18,000 passengers/ hour/direction and Line 4 up to 24,000. Full automation not only reduces running costs as fewer staff are required to operate the line than with manual operation, but it also improves flexibility as it is relatively easy to adapt train frequency to fluctuations in demand.

Full automation requires platform screen doors at stations to ensure passenger safety. Platform screen doors also help to speed boarding as passengers always know where the train doors will be when the train stops. In addition they improve the station environment by reducing noise significantly and allowing better temperature control.

With shorter trains running at high frequency, stations can be smaller than on traditional heavy metros, which helps to reduce overall capital costs. In theory construction should be faster, but this is not always the case in Italy. A particular problem is the likelihood of finding archaeological remains during tunnelling which often require investigation.

Construction of the 12.8km Line 5, which has 14 stations, started in 2007 and the first 4km section from Bignami south to Zara on Line 3 opened in February 2013. This was followed by a 1km extension to Garibaldi main line station in the city centre in March 2014, with the final 7.5km section to San Siro Stadium opening on April 29 although some of the intermediate stations will be not completed until October.

A construction time of seven years four months has been agreed for the 15km Line 4 which will have 21 stations. This means Line 4 will not open until 2022, although the city would like to open a "functional section" much earlier than this, ideally in 2017 or 2018. Work on the initial
3km section from Linate to the new main line station at Forlanini started in 2012, so this is clearly a candidate for early completion. Preliminary construction of the next 3km section from Forlanini to Tricolore began in January so it might be possible to open this before 2022. This east-west line will run to the southwestern suburb of San Cristoforo and will interchange with the cross-city line at Dateo, Line 1 at San Babila and Line 2 at Sant' Ambrogio.

PPP projects

A special company was formed in 2006 to plan, design, and build Line 5 and then operate it for 27 years. The concession was awarded by the city and is overseen by the consultancy Metropolitano Milanese. Metro5 comprises Astaldi, which is responsible for the civil works, AnsaldoBreda, Ansaldo STS and Alstom as equipment suppliers, and Milan Transport (ATM) as the operator. Metro5 was responsible for funding 40% of the €500m project which equates to €191m. The Italian government provided the bulk of the funding with a €257m contribution, while the remaining €53m came from the city council. On April 30, Astaldi announced that it had signed a €430m loan agreement and issued bonds worth €150m, both of which mature in 2035, to refinance and complete the project.

Line 4 is being realised using a similar structure and funding was finalised at the end of last year. The total cost of the project is €1.87bn, with the Italian state providing €871m, private shareholders €620m and the city €378m. However, the cost of building and operating the line up to 2025 is estimated at €3.46bn.

The M4 company set up to implement the project is owned two-thirds by the city of Milan. The private shareholders comprise Salini-Impregilo and Astaldi each with a 9.67% holding, AnsaldoBreda and Ansaldo STS with a combined holding of 10.66%, ATM with 2.33% and Sirti with the remaining 1%.

Contracts were awarded at the beginning of the year to AnsaldoBreda for 47 trains worth around €250m and Ansaldo STS for CBTC, control systems and platform screen doors to the value of €265m.


ATM is already making improvements to the original three metro lines, particularly lines 1 and 2 which are the oldest. A new €11.5m CTC centre which supervises the operation of the three lines was commissioned at the end of 2013.

Developed jointly by ATM, Alstom and IBM, the centre consolidates the work of three control centres into a single location equipped with 25 workstations covering 83.5km and 1650 train movements per day. The centre also integrates communications and supervision systems for 94 stations covering escalators, lifts, lighting, ventilation and traction power supply.

In July 2014 AnsaldoBreda rolled out the first of 30 new trains - 20 for Line 1 and 10 for Line 2 - which are being built for ATM under a €210 contract awarded in October 2012. The six-car sets have wide inter-car gangways to improve passenger distribution along the full length of the train. The air-conditioning system is designed to cope with the wide range of summer and winter temperature extremes encountered in Milan. The trains have vandal-resistant walls, and a video surveillance system with continuous recording of images from inside the passenger compartment.

Line 1 is currently being extended 1.8km north from Sesto May 1 to Cinsello-Monza with one intermediate station. The extension is due to open late next year.

In February Milan published its sustainable mobility plan which calls for several extensions to existing metro lines, upgrading Line 2, construction of the planned Line 6 which will follow a northwest-southeast alignment, and upgrading some tram lines so that they complement the metro better.

The plan also includes a map showing an 11-line metro network. Whether such an ambitious programme of new line construction can ever be completed remains to be seen, but it is good to have a long-term view of how the metro should be expanded in the future.