Rome bus company hits back at critics

ROME -  Roman transport company Atac has strongly denied reports about recent bus failures in the capital claiming that air conditioning is working on its fleet while acknowledging that hundreds of buses break down daily, even if not as many as reported by a national newspaper.

 Out of the approximately 1,350 buses that (should) circulate Rome every day, it was previously reported that as many as 500 or more have to return to one of the 9 Atac warehouses because of unreliable air conditioning and various malfunctions, according to Il Fatto Quotidiano. Atac Tuesday contacted both Il Fatto and the Italian Insider to dispute parts of the articles: saying that "only" 380, and not 500 buses, are reported to be faulty, "mainly due to the advanced age of the fleet." 

 Temperatures in the capital are already soaring above 30 degrees celsius, and this figure will only keep climbing throughout the summer. Theoretically, bus drivers are allowed to treat non air-conditioned buses as faulty and bring them back to the base. However, in reality, in order to ensure that the number of buses that are out of service does not go over those that are fully functioning, drivers are being sent instructions obliging them to “go ahead with the service”. Atac has responded that maintenance of the air conditioning system is regularly carried out, and that these procedures have just recently been updated internally. 

 Renzo Coppini, the regional secretary of SUL (Sindicato Unitario Lavoratori, or Atac’s trade union) has blasted management, calling Atac's call to go ahead despite air conditioning problems a “serious violation of workers' rights, and also a danger to passengers […] The temperatures are already unbearable, I don’t dare think about what will happen in ten days time when we will be in the height of summer”. 

 Other daily failures on the buses include overheated engines, oil and gas leakages, tires going flat in just a few hours, jumping gears, faulty braking systems to name but a few. Between March 2016 and today 24 buses have been destroyed by sudden fires, caused by maintenance defects. In fact, just last week, there was an incident in the heart of the city, where a bus’ hand break became disengaged and the bus sped, driverless, across Piazza Venezia, hitting a Smart car and injuring a woman. Atac has insisted that an "internal investigation" is currently being conducted, and that nothing has yet been made official.

 Enrico Stefano, President of the Capital’s Transport and Mobility Commission has admitted: “We still have much to do. But this is why we do not give up, and indeed, every day, we dedicate ourselves to this mission, to ensure that Rome has an efficient public transport service.” 

 In response to Atac's denials, Il Fatto Quotidiano noted that the figures it originally reported are from datasheets collected at the beginning of June, and that the corrected number of 380 faults a day is still a significant amount. It has also confirmed "possession of union reports and documentation" when it comes to the air conditioning on the buses.

The following is the text of an Atac statement to the press from Tuesday: 

 "1). It is not true that 500 buses a day come back to the warehouse because of mechanical failures. The journalist, in addition to misunderstanding the "Deposito" written on buses, which only means that the bus has finished its route, mistakenly associates a failure with a return of a bus to the warehouse and therefore a decrease in service. This is not so. Any faults are resolved in real time, either repaired by workers by or by replacing the bus.

2) It is not true that the company has 500 faults a day. The number 500 reported is completely invented. In 2017, we reported a number of damage reports of around 380 per day, mainly due to the advanced age of the fleet. This does not mean that 380 buses per day are returned to base.

3) Contrary to what is stated in the article, the maintenance campaign for air conditioning systems has been regularly carried out. Fault management procedures have recently been regulated by an internal procedure.

4) Buses that leave the warehouse every day are not 1,200 as reported, but over 1,350;

5) Regarding the incident that, when left by the driver, a bus hit a car in Piazza Venezia, an internal investigation is underway. The version in the article is without any foundation. The company is available news that, even though incorrectly published, creates confusion," the ATAC statement said.