[Railway reconstruction Italy 1943-1946 published by Royal Engineers, 1946]

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Chapter I

Section I.
Staff and service organisation

3. Italian State Railway.

The Italian State Railways own and operate about 75% of all the railways in Italy, including all the main through routes. The balance of 25% consist of railways owned and operated by various private firms, and in the majority of cases these private lines merely act as feeders to the I.S.R., routes. The private lines are in all cases only capable of light traffic, and about half of them are narrow gauge lines. Also in many cases the private railways are closely tied to the I.S.R. by traffic and running agreements. It was thus natural, that Allied interest in Italian railways was mainly concentrated on the I.S.R., and that the existence of the private railways was virtually ignored.

The organization of the Italian State Railways is to a considerable degree decentralized. The whole country is divided up into fourteen regions or «Compartimenti». The Headquarters of the various Compartimenti are located at Palermo, Reggio di Calabria, Bari, Naples, Rome, Ancona, Florence, Bologna, Genoa, Turin, Milan, Verona, Venice and Trieste. Each Compartimento is controlled by a «Capo Compartimento». This official has very wide powers in his own area and does not depend on the Head Office in Rome for much more than policy direction. Each Capo Compartimento has a full staff including branches for the direction of all railway activities.

These features of the I.S.R. organization proved to be of the greatest value during the whole of the battle. The fact that a Compartimento was separated from the head office of the railway for a long period was not a material fact affecting the functioning of the Compartimento. Futher, Capi Compartimenti could freely accept and act on instructions of representatives of M.R.S., even after the capture of Rome.

For the handling of all construction matters, close contact was maintained between R.C.Es and the Capi Compartimenti in whose areas they were operating. Any construction action required of the I.S.R. was obtained by direct instruction, by the R.C.E., to the Capo Compartimento. In only comparatively few cases was action taken by M.R.S. Headquarters with I.S.R. Headquarters, and these were mainly cases involving general policy or involving areas where M.R.S. construction was not represented.

During the whole of the period of hostilities, the I.S.R. was very closely controlled either by M.R.S. or by the Rail Division of A.C. acting in agreement with M.R.S. After the termination of hostilities, control was gradually relaxed and on 1st November, 1945, the whole responsibility for operation, reconstruction and maintenance of the system was returned to the Italians, with the exception of certain lines in the Trieste Area, retained under Military control for tactical reasons, and certain works which were of military importance.

The capabilities of Italian State Railways officials were found to be rather disappointing. As the tide of battle moved across the country and the various Compartimenti offices fell into our hands, the first attitude of the officials concerned was quite naturally one of complete bewilderment. This attitude was usually increased by the fact that all the head men had been Fascists and had taken flight, leaving their subordinates to cope with a situation of which neither they, nor anyone else, had ever seen the like before. The bewilderment passed, but the head men did not return, either because they were afraid or because they were no longer in the land of the living. It was, therefore, some time before the administration recovered sufficiently to function smoothly.

In general it was found that the technical grades were intelligent and clever; that the executive grades tended to be lazy, incompetent and overawed by the magnitude of the tasks ahead; that the artisans were lazy and had only average skill, and that the labouring grades were frankly lazy.

This is a general analysis of the country as a whole. There were however considerable and noticeable discrepancies between the abilities of the officials in various parts of the country. Those in the South are definitely prone to laziness and incompetence, whilst those in the North probably compare very favourably with similar grades on any Railway in Europe. This difference in temperament was considerably stressed by the much greater degree of destruction of the railways in the South, as compared with the North, which quite naturally fostered a feeling of hopelessness in the Southerners.

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[Railway reconstruction Italy 1943-1946 published by Royal Engineers, 1946]

Alessandro Tuzza