Thousands of Milanese crowded the seven stations of the brand-new M5 “lilac” line for a free trial when the wagons started rolling every six minutes from 11.00 on Sunday 10 February. According to city transport authority ATM, in the first hour alone 5,000 passengers rushed to get the free lilac scarves, flowers and balloons and celebrate the opening of the new line.
The totally automated short trains operated without drivers are only 50 metres long, rather than the traditional 110-metre convoys on the other lines. They each carry up to 536 passengers – 72 of them seated – and have two wheelchair anchor points. All trains and platforms are contually monitored by CCTV from the control room, and have emergency phones for passengers to use. And all stations and trains are fully compatible with disabled access.
The four-km initial stretch from Bignami to Zara, where it meets the M3 (yellow) line, brings the number of metro stations in the city to 191, and the total track in operation to 92 kilometres. In the course of this year, say operators ATM, two more stations will be opened at Isola and Garibaldi, where the line will cross the M2 (green) line. And by October 2015 the total planned line from Garibaldi station to the San Siro stadium should be completed, with 19 stations along almost 13 km. These will include Lotto, where the new line will cross the red M1 line. The line will operate initially from 06.00 to 22.00, so that work on the additional stretch can be carried out at night.
Fifty new staff have taken a 70-day training programme, helped by advisors from Copenhagen’s fully-automatic light railway, judged “World’s best metro” in 2008 and “World’s best driverless metro” in 2009 and 2010.
Planners estimate that the completed lilac line will save five million private car journeys a year, saving nearly 9,000 tons of petrol and causing 260 fewer accidents.