There are many “unsung heroes” in times of crisis, and we recognise that our public transport professionals are some of them. Our ‘Guardians of Mobility’, are an integral part of the front liners keeping essential services available throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Over the course of these next few weeks, we will be sharing stories from our own community on what’s being done to keep public transport operations running around the world, and to shed a little light on our sector’s contribution to fighting this pandemic.
Today, we hear from ATB Bergamo (ATB Group), sharing experiences from Italy.
Since the coronavirus reached Europe, Italy quickly became an epicentre for the virus and has steadily remained the hardest hit country on the continent (and one of the hardest hit in the world). Bergamo, a prosperous Italian city in the region of Lombardy, unfortunately holds the highest record for coronavirus infections in Italy.
ATB Group, the public transport operator in the region of Bergamo, tackled the crisis from several fronts to ensure the continuation of essential “emergency” services for citizens, while at the same time, providing proper working and health conditions for front line staff.
“It’s important to communicate that despite the lockdown, essential services still go on thanks to some precautionary measures” said Gianni Scarfone, General Manager of ATB.
Transport services progressively scaled down with each new ministerial order. Buses, trams and funiculars reduced services to “non-school hours”, as schools and offices across the region -as well as in the whole the country- were closed. Services were also suspended after 20:00 due to decreased demand. Funiculars were closed as the safe distance between passengers couldn’t be guaranteed. Further reductions to the mobility service offer had to be made to keep passengers and staff protected. At the moment, ATB is running with about 60% of the normal mobility offer.
Internal communication is crucial in a crisis. ATB used all workspace touchpoints and an intranet to keep communication open, as well as shared frequent open letters from the General Manager to support the staff in this critical moment.
“We have received appreciations and solidarity from our fellow citizens who have sent us numerous letters of thanks and sympathy”, said Gianni Scarfone. “I share some of these with all the staff underlining that each letter is a testimony of affection and gratitude for what we are doing every day with perseverance and dedication.”
Inspired by the support of the community, and in this general spirit of solidarity, ATB also began offering free transport services to all health care professionals and to civil protection volunteers, as they travel to and from work.
“A strong sense of humanity has emerged among citizens as well as solidarity among colleagues”, said Scarfone. “I believe there is the awareness that our work has always been based on human relationships, from ‘person’ to ‘person’. Transport workers are ‘people’ committed to offering a service to ‘people’, to guaranteeing a fundamental right, the right to mobility.”
While the virus continues to devastate the region, our Guardians of Mobility at ATB persevere. Extraordinary cleaning measures are continually taken, thoroughly disinfecting all buses and trams every night, as well as all contact surfaces, work stations and offices. Front liners wear masks and gloves on their shifts, and all passengers must enter vehicles through the back or middle door to avoid contact with drivers.
However, the city has hope of a brighter future together.
“Now that we are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel, we are thinking boldly about what to do next,” said Scarfone, “how to rethink public transport and collective mobility after the coronavirus tsunami. It’s a challenge that we have to take on locally but also globally at UITP."
“During this time, I have seen the birth of new solutions that have allowed us to solve many problems”, he continued. “And I think that people who are engaged in our reality today, will be better people in the future, on a human and professional level.”
We thank our Guardians of Mobility in Bergamo for their strength and for giving us all hope in the solidarity of our community to get us through these challenging times.
Missed our story from Metro Istanbul? Catch up here!
UITP is doing its part to support the public transport sector in this unprecedented time. Please see our dedicated webpage on all of our activities surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic for more information on what's available.
Stay tuned to hear more stories from the front lines around the world…