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ETC Technical Visit

Ann Marsden, James Pritchard and Jens Kandt from the United Kingdom Department for Transport, joined a group visiting the ‘Messina’ tram depot, which is Milan’s largest tram depot. The visit was fascinating – we were given the opportunity to view both the vintage and the new trams and to hear from the host group about the history of the depot, the operation of Italy’s largest tram system and the day-to-day work of the teams. The host group was really kind and patiently answered the very many questions we had.

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The depot building itself is an impressive example of industrial architecture. Built in 1912, it features an innovative glass roof which allowed for the best possible lighting conditions. The roof was destroyed during World War II but subsequently restored. Images of the restoration can be found at Messina's historical archive.

We saw how the drivers' cabs have evolved through different generations of tram, learned about some of the safety critical systems (such as the 'dead man's handle' and emergency brake) and were shown how all trams carry sand to improve adhesion between the wheel and the rail in difficult conditions. Other highlights included changing the points and viewing the workings of a tram from below.

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One of the hosting team was responsible for the drivers' roster, so we also learned a lot about staffing requirements including how much time is allocated for a 'comfort break'.

Our visit was rounded off with ice cream from the depot’s freezer, which we enjoyed together on this hot afternoon in Milan.