The European Commission promoted the assertion of new and more efficient transport methods to satisfy the mobility needs of people and goods with the flagship initiative Resource efficient Europe, maintaining a residual quota of overall movements for individual transport. In detail, the 2011 White Paper ‘Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system’ indicates the prospects for making the transport system competitive, sustainable and efficient. The aim is to create a mobility system that supports European economic progress, strengthening the competitivity of different areas with top quality services and also ensuring more effective use of resources. One of the key topics in the White Paper is also better integration of the modal networks with increasingly interconnected airports, railway stations, buses and undergrounds turned into multi-modal connection platforms for passengers.
This is the context in which a process which started with Legislative Decree 422/1997 Grant of local public transport functions and duties to regions and local bodies has developed for the liberalisation of local public transport oriented to the rationalisation of the networks through modal integration and unified tariffs. Lombardy Region defined a new governance structure in the public transport sector with Regional Law 6/2012 which started the process of superseding the old administrative logic setting out the European and national framework on Local Public Transport (LPT) to arrive at the idea of ‘basin’ as the optimal area context for the efficient management of public transport, to give an effective response to the mobility needs with a view to opening to the market and ensuring competitivity between the operating companies. The LPT agencies became the relevant bodies for programming integrated transport services for the six basins found in the region, obtained following the principle of aggregation of the provinces and the ‘delimitation’ of mobility. The basins are Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona-Mantua, Como-Lecco-Varese, Sondrio and Milan-Monza-Brianza-Lodi-Pavia.
Lombardy Region has implemented many programmes aimed at encouraging the use of public transport or other, greener, methods of movement – the Piano Territoriale Regionale della Lombardia (Lombardy Regional Area Plan, PTR, which aims at strengthening competitivity, rebalancing the area, and protecting and enhancing the resources), the Programma Regionale Mobilità e Trasporti (Regional Mobility and Transport Programme, PRMT, which promotes the integrated planning of the infrastructure networks and transport services), the Piano Regionale degli Interventi per la qualità dell’Aria (Regional Air Quality operations Plan, PRIA, with the aim of integrated planning of the area based on accessibility to public transport networks) and the Piano Regionale della Mobilità Ciclistica (Regional Cycling Plan, PRMC, with the intention of favouring LPT-bicycle and train-bicycle intermodality for the daily use of bicycles for the last mile).
In this context, the Region launched a series of pilot projects with the aim of assisting the new LPT bodies in the process of development of individual LPT Basin Plans. The intention was that the projects could inject the ‘enzyme’ of integrated road-rail planning into the process, moving from the consolidated practices of transport planning and putting them into real contexts, each with a different reference infrastructure scenario, geographic, mountain, settlement and town-planning context, offer of railway services, and segments of demand for prevalent movement with attention to mobility that is not systematic by definition, i.e. that for all the functions of a complex community which are not just linked to study and office work. Local area or peak situations were analysed in co-operation with NET Engineering for the basins of Brescia, Bergamo, Sondrio, Cremona-Mantua and Como-Lecco-Varese. A particular context was developed for each of these, always considering the essential concept of ‘iron moves and rubber advances’.
The road-rail transport hub is the main element as it is the access point of the integrated transport system and must ensure the greatest usability for all types of users through signs that guide the user, including non-systematic ones (referring especially to tourist mobility), towards the service. The offer of services was developed with co-ordinated timetables, using the same step (synchronisation) and the same stage (symmetry) in planning the timetables (co-ordination of the timetables on the axis of symmetry of the minute .00 in relevant hubs with the aim of minimising waiting times and operating costs).
The co-ordination of image through the development of more suitable materials, which also depends on the geographic context of the hub, co-ordination of the signs in the transport hub for those using road and railway lines, and the maps of the services network are the key to a travel experience able to raise the perceived quality and also shift quotas of mobility from private transport.
The reactivation of the Varese-Porto Ceresio railway line in the Como-Lecco-Varese basin and the creation of the new international Arcisate-Stabio branch towards Canton Ticino (Switzerland) opened up the possibility of rationalising the road network, eliminating the overlapping connections and defining new services timetabled and co-ordinated with the railway services in the stations of Bisuschio and Arcisate. These services could then have the same features as the new regional product RLink, ensuring greater accessibility of the area and an improvement in cross-border mobility.
The station of Rovato is an interesting railway hub in the Brescia basin that connects two railways and some newly designed bus lines. A new urban layout was suggested that improves the interchange with the LPT bus lines of the area and makes the connection between the two neighbouring stations Rovato (state railway network) and Rovato Borgo (a local railway network (FN)) more effective.
An operational solution for one of the points where the Bergamo Basin Programme sets out road-road integration between urban and non-urban lines was developed, referring in particular to the centre of Villa D’Almè.
The main railway stations of access to the eastern areas of the province of Mantua were indicated in the context of the new scheduling of the railway services along the Cremona-Mantua line. A ‘bypass’ transfer and connection line was proposed with Sabbioneta, a great tourist attraction, that could be adopted in the context of the new RLink services in Lombardy.
Lastly, the new high-performance line in the Sondrio basin ideally continues the line of the Milan-Sondrio-Tirano railway line, ensuring accessibility for systematic and tourist movements to Bormio and Livigno and interconnection with the services from Trentino and Switzerland, which are also a valid prototype of the new RLink service.
The method used in the creation of these projects can be implemented in other situations and contexts. In a ‘system project’, starting from the indication of the mobility needs of the people involved, transport services able to satisfy those needs at an adequate level of service and a minimum social cost for the community are defined. The operations required to harmonise all the programmes of services offered by the local bodies are assessed on the basis of this definition. For this, the first thing to do is the survey of current demand through specific mobility surveys and the state of progress in the operations already planned and financed. This is followed by the formulation of a series of suggestions of models and road-rail integrated operating programmes based on current and expected demand and the level of service-aim to provide for the community.
The choice concerning lighting and the positioning of physical elements play an important role in these projects. A lot of research has highlighted how the quality of hubs, in terms of aesthetics and services for travellers, should become an explicit project variable as it can make a significant contribution to increasing traveller satisfaction and having economic impacts for both the companies concerned and the areas involved.