Rome's 5-Star mayor launches bid to save ailing city transport firm

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 01, 2017 1:53 PM

ROME (Reuters) - Rome's mayor on Friday launched an attempt to save the city's ailing public transport company from bankruptcy, asking creditors to support a restructuring of its 1.3 billion euros ($1.54 billion) of debt.

Virginia Raggi, a prominent face of Italy's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, said she would ask magistrates to approve the plan for a "total renewal" of the company to keep it operating as a public body.

Atac's workforce, of around 12,000 people, has been criticized as bloated and its fleet of buses, trams and metros as old and badly maintained. Calls have grown for it to be privatized.

Raggi, who was elected in June last year, rejects this solution and on Friday the company's board approved the restructuring plan, which will require the backing of her city government and its suppliers.

"Atac must remain public," Raggi wrote in a Facebook post. "We are beginning a revolution that will transform the biggest public transport company in Europe into an efficient one."

Several city transport unions, fearing lay-offs, immediately announced they would hold a one-day strike this month.

Turning Atac around is a daunting task. Its former chief quit in July after just three months in the job, saying he was unable to salvage the firm and feared possible legal action tied to any eventual collapse.

Raggi has had a torrid time since becoming Rome's first ever woman mayor. She has lost several close aides due to political infighting or legal scandals and has so far made little tangible progress in fixing the heavily-indebted city's chronic problems, from road maintenance to refuse collection.

Despite her difficulties, 5-Star remains Italy's most popular party, according to many opinion polls, and Raggi's fortunes in attempting to clean up Atac could have significant repercussions nationally.

With a general election due by May next year, 5-Star can ill afford the bad publicity of extended strikes and legal disputes over the capital's transport company.

(Reporting by Gavin Jones; editing by Andrew Roche)