Feb. 3, 2010
-- The Italian transport sector suffered a number of strikes and stoppages in 2008. On November 10, railway and mass transit workers went on a strike, coinciding with a wildcat protest by Rome-based staff at Alitalia, which forced the financially troubled flag carrier to cancel dozens of flights out of Leonardo da Vinci airport. Roads were congested as commuters tried to drive to work. Trade unions representing railway and transit workers were seeking to force management to open contract renewal negotiations. At Alitalia, the protesters were opposing the latest emergency plan designed to save the airline from bankruptcy by cutting jobs and routes. Transport workers had also been on strike a month earlier on October 17, seeking higher wages and pensions. BMI's Italy Freight Transport Report 2009 predicts that freight traffic, measured in million tonnes-km (mntkm) will increase by an annual average of 1.1% in 2009-2013, on a par with the growth rate that we expect the wider economy to achieve in the same period. Our forecast takes account of what we could describe as a 'recession and slow recovery' scenario for Italy. Although there are clear problems with the underlying competitiveness of both the wider Italian economy and the freight sector, the fact remains that we do not expect a major reduction in Italy's 'transport intensity': the underlying relationship between freight traffic and value of output. We project that transport and communications GDP, boosted by the telecoms sector, will grow to US$197.2bn by 2013, representing 8.2% of total GDP. Italy's freight transport industry could do better than this, however, and there is a real sense in which it is underperforming its potential. One relatively adverse factor is the operating environment. We have scored the operating environment at 53.2 (out of a theoretical maximum of 70), which places Italy at the lower end of the European ranking. Its weak points include the regulatory and competitive environment. Improving in these areas would make a significant difference to industry performance, as it would boost confidence levels and ultimately, investment. BMI believes road freight transport will retain its dominance throughout the forecast period, although air, sea and rail freight will also make their contributions to overall total growth. Road haulage should grow at an annual average of 1.1%, with rail freight expanding by a marginally slower annual average of 1.0%. Measured in tonnage terms, sea freight should rise by 0.8% each year, while airfreight, affected by tough market conditions, should increase by 1.3% a year. Across the different modes, BMI's conclusion is that while the freight industry will see low growth, there remains significant room for improvement and efficiency gains.
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