The central Italian region of Lazio is set to become a major national and international logistics hub, thanks largely to massive public investment in the next few years. The government has already set aside more than E5.5bn for transport projects that will ensure the region’s economic growth in years to come.

“The infrastructure that we are now building in Lazio will boost its potential as one of the country’s major economic regions,” says Italian cabinet adviser on transport and infrastructure Ercole Incalza. About 80% of those projects have already been approved and construction has started on more than a third of them.

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Multi-modal terminals

The massive infrastructure investment will help to reduce the region’s reliance on roads by upgrading rail, sea and air transport, and ensuring seamless interconnection between the four main modes of transport through several multi-modal terminals, or interports, across the region. High levels of investment in transport infrastructure are partly the government’s response to Lazio’s growing commercial sectors, including pharmaceuticals, computer and hi-tech, tourism, clothing, and agriculture and foods.

The decision to underpin commercial activity by upgrading the transport network involves rationalising Lazio’s existing transport network. “More than 100 million tons of cargo pass through Lazio each year with roads carrying about 85% of the total – compared with an European Union average of 67%.” Mr Incalza says. “This puts a big limit on the region’s transport capacity and it is now a priority to optimise this transit of goods and people through the region and beyond.”

Capacity upgrade

By connecting road, rail, sea and air transport through regional interports, the government is targeting a fourfold increase in intermodal transport in the next five years to handle about six million tons per year. Out of the 100 million tons of goods transported through the region, around 15% is carried by more than one mode of transport.

The completion of EU “grand projects” are certain to spur growth in Lazio’s growing logistics sector. These projects include the Berlin-Sicily road and rail corridor, including a bridge connecting Sicily to the mainland, which is due for completion in 2011, and the massive upgrade of European waterways, including Lazio’s main seaport, Civitavecchia.

Among other major projects are the motorway and high-speed rail link from Rome to Naples (reducing rail journeys to less than 60 minutes) and Florence (about 85 minutes), Rome’s two new metro lines, and a motorway between Civitavecchia and the seaport city of Livorno in Tuscany, which is due to begin in 2005. Meanwhile, Rome’s E750m ring road expansion will make the orbital highway three lanes wide. This is due for completion in 2006 and will double the highway’s capacity.

Of utmost importance to the logistics sector is the expansion of the main seaport and the recent opening of the Cargo City at Rome’s main international airport. Both projects will give a major boost to Lazio’s main logistics hub, the area between the airport that connects road, rail, sea and air transport. The central Mediterranean port of Civitavecchia is already one of Italy’s main seaports but large-scale investment in an interport area within walking distance will open the port up to a 10-fold expansion in container traffic.

“Civitavecchia is set to become a very big logistics hub. In the next three years, container traffic through the port is set to increase from 20,000 to 200,000 units,” says Mr Incalza.

Coping with cargo

The government has already spent about E300m on upgrading the port’s facilities, including its 50-hectare goods-handling area, and it will spend a further E100m

to complete the expansion. This huge expansion is in no small part a response to the increasingly high levels of container cargo being shipped through Italian ports like Civitavecchia. In the past five years alone, container shipments have grown from about three million tons per year to nine million tons, due to the huge expansion of trade in the Mediterranean and with China.

Meanwhile, the E140m Cargo City that opened in August 2004 has tripled the

airport’s handling capacity to 300,000 tons of cargo per year and offers logistics companies the latest freight handling technology.

 

 

BRIDGESTONE GEARS UP IN LAZIO

 

Staff at Bridgestone’s European Technical Centre in Castel Romano, just outside Rome, are gearing up in the battle for global market share. The Japanese tyre manufacturer, which has 46 tyre production plants across the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia, is jostling for second position among the global tyre giants and wants to increase its 119.1% market share and challenge its competitor Michelin on its home territory. The company’s expansion strategy relies on increasing brand awareness, not least through providing next-generation technology products developed in Lazio to the mass market. For example, the compounds used in Bridgestone’s reinforced ‘runflat’ tyres, which function even when they lose air pressure, were also developed by researchers at the Castel Romano technical headquarters. Runflat tyres are due to go into mainstream production next year and are already used by car marques such as Ferrari, Porsche, Mercedes and BMW.

Bridgestone’s global expansion strategy includes a new E40m proving ground, which was opened by Bridgestone’s CEO and chairman Shigeo Watanabe on June 11, 2004, to test new tyres developed at its Castel Romano research facilities 30km to the north. During the next 18 months, the company plans to add five wet skid-pad circles, straight and cornering hydroplaning test beds, a 1.8km wet handling track, and full testing facilities for truck, bus and agricultural tyres.

“The existing plant Proving Ground at Castel Romano Tech Centre was not enough to achieve our targets,” says Franco Annunziato, managing director of Bridgestone Technical Centre Europe. Since Firestone (now acquired by Bridgestone) started developing and testing tyres in Lazio in 1973, its facilities have grown steadily. “You now couldn’t flip a coin and find an empty space for it to land at our Castel Romano site,” he says. A further E12m investment is planned to upgrade existing chemical laboratories, office space and underground testing facilities.

Bridgestone’s headcount in Lazio is increasing – it will soon be close to 400 units – and attracting top engineers has not been a problem. “We’ve found that the quality of engineers leaving Italian universities, mainly Rome, is very high,” says Mr Annunziato.

Besides the availability of technical skills needed for a research centre, the region’s stable weather conditions and good international transport infrastructure also swayed the company towards expanding in Lazio. “Rome has given us ideal weather conditions for year-round testing. It has snowed only a couple of times in 20 years,” says Mr Annunziato.

Bridgestone’s investment in Lazio has paid off. Automakers such as Ferrari have put the Bridgestone technology at the forefront of the European car market. “We take great pride in our Formula One victories and customers in Europe are now asking for Bridgestone tyres more than ever,” says Mr Annunziato. “That is very rewarding.”