Postcard from... Rome


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The Independent Online

The awfulness of Rome’s public transport is proverbial. Fatalistic locals just raise their eyebrows and curse transport managers and elected officials.

Those not ready to risk life and limb on a moped or scooter during their daily commute instead risk dying of thirst waiting for a bus.

Back in 2010 a clue emerged as to why things were so bad with news that an inordinate proportion of employees of the city’s Atac public transport company were friends or family of those in the city council who “ran” the organisation.

But just how those in charge contrive to provide such a dire service became even clearer yesterday with reports that investigators are onto a giant scam in which millions of bus and metro tickets are forged, with the proceeds diverted to criminal gangs and political parties – with the nod of transport chiefs.

The bipartisan scam has allegedly been going on since 2000 – effectively stealing €70bn (£58bn) a year from the capital’s transport system, reports suggest. Some arrests were made last year relating to – in the words of prosecutors – the “secret criminal society” behind the scam.

The investigation widened as the scale of the operation became clear, with La Repubblica claiming that vast sums were channelled into slush funds, aided and abetted by politicians on both sides of the spectrum. As such, fighting rackets is unlikely to figure highly in local election pitches.