Bari, 19 May 2022
Solidarity and value were discussed today in Bari, during the Corporate Social Responsibility leg of the Giro d’Italia.
The Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane Group is there for people in vulnerable conditions, thanks to a social network in the main Italian stations, to restore value to unmanned stations and lines that are no longer in use or have been reconverted by involving local communities, local administrations and trade associations for their reclamation in the interest of social use.
Present at the meeting was FS’ People Care Manager, Paola Longobardo, who illustrated the commitment and concrete actions implemented by the Group to promote inclusion and to activate greater involvement in social issues amongst its personnel.
The Framework Agreement with ANCI has created synergies between all Italian municipalities in the interest of combating social hardship in railway areas and the enhancement of territories. This meeting gave rise to ONDS, the Observatory of Solidarity in Railway Stations, which coordinates the Social Network of Help Centres.
Thanks to this Network, housed in premises granted for use at no cost to the Associations operating throughout the territories, in recent years it has been possible to face a social emergency amplified by the pandemic not only through direct action but also thanks to the continuous weaving by the managing bodies of a protective network that has enabled those living on the streets to find concrete help and to access all the necessary health systems as quickly as possible.
The Help Centre Network
Currently present in Rome, Milan, Chivasso, Genoa, Bologna, Florence, Pescara, Foggia, Naples, Catania, Bari, Messina, Turin, Reggio Calabria, Brescia, Rovereto, Pisa and Cagliari, the Help Centres are structures that provide guidance and social assistance services to adults, families and immigrants alike. These are “low threshold” centres, meaning there is no filter for entry.
They offer a listening service, an assessment of the person’s situation and information provided in railway stations and neighbouring areas and, in accordance with the needs and possibilities, provide direct assistance to people in order to implement a recovery and social reintegration project, working in a network with other assistance structures in the area.
The orientation service, rather, is aimed towards sending people to public or contracted facilities.
The Help Centre of Bari Corso Italia
In Bari, almost 100,000 assistance operations were carried out in 2020. Of these, the vast majority – more than 97,000 – were for basic support services such as showers, the provision of meals and distribution of clothing, whilst the remainder were for social and labour market support and guidance. The Help Centre is a listening desk located near the railway station that orients people in difficulty towards the city’s social services (shelters, therapeutic communities, specialised associations) in order to develop targeted paths to recovery and social reintegration. The centre in Bari is entrusted to the Social Cooperative CAPS – Centro di Aiuto Psico-Sociale (for psycho-social aid) headquartered on Corso Italia.
Assistance services provided in the Bari Help Centre reached 662 people, 36% of whom were already Help Centre users and 64% were new arrivals. In more detail, 85.9% are men, 13.7% are women and 0.3% are transgender. In terms of nationality, 27% are Italian, 6% hail from the EU and 67% are non-EU.
In addition to the Help Centres, inside the railway premises granted for use at no cost by the FS Italiane are the Shelters managed by the large Italian associations, particularly in Rome and Milan.
This residential service is intended to provide temporary accommodation in the evenings and at night to adults without adequate housing. Such facilities offer a bed, a hot meal, toilets and laundry facilities.
Stations: a social reuse of railway heritage
The introduction of innovative technologies has freed up many spaces previously occupied by railway personnel within the stations. Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (RFI) has thus seized the opportunity to make such spaces available to the community, guaranteeing the custody of the asset and its public use.
RFI has signed a number of Memoranda of Understanding with non-profit associations (Legambiente, Centro Servizi Volontariato, Associazione Italiana Turismo Responsabile, Legacoopsociali and many others) to ensure the quality of station reuse with projects of high social value. Very often, it is the local administrations themselves to request spaces for public facilities needed by the community (traffic police, civil defence), providing constant supervision of the spaces utilised in turn.
Then there are some 450 stations currently granted at no cost by FS Italiane for projects of public benefit. Such initiatives enrich the territory by providing services to citizens whilst generating decorum and new jobs.
18 stations in Puglia have been loaned out or are currently being activated or entrusted: Acquaviva delle Fonti, Barletta, Bitetto, Brindisi, Candela, Canne della Battaglia, Castellaneta, Foggia, Francavilla Fontana, Ginosa, Grottaglie, Grumo Appula, Incoronata, Minervino Murge, Ostuni, Palagiano, San Pietro Vernotico and Santeramo in Colle.
For many years, the Grumo Appula station has been home to the Cooperativa Solidarietà that has set up a day centre for minors with a food bank and lodgings, together with a multifunctional family care centre and a summer centre.
Decommissioned lines: greenways
As infrastructure no longer being utilised, decommissioned lines are often located in areas of outstanding beauty that can be given a new lease of life. Hence, these railway tracks constitute a formidable asset of sustainable mobility. The FS Group is responsible for their preservation and is seeking to propose their enhancement by transforming the areas into greenways.
More than 1,200 km of lines that are no longer in use can be transformed into a network of sustainable mobility, precisely thanks to the planimetric characteristics that distinguish the railway lines, whose gradients are always rather moderate and thus easy to travel on foot, on horseback or by means of gentle locomotion such as bicycles and scooters.
These lines are often typified by creative works of great engineering value – helical tunnels, bridges, alternating embankments and trenches dug into the rock to render orographically irregular routes homogeneous.
In this scenario, abandoned buildings along the lines lend themselves to becoming hostels, restaurants or cycle stations, to creating new business opportunities and contributing to the local economy.
To date, some 450 kilometres of lines have been converted into greenways. In Puglia, following the completion of the doubling of the Bari-Taranto railway line, the Bari Sant’ Andrea-Bitetto railway line has recently been converted into a greenway, as an opportunity to help reconnect the urban centre with the peripheral areas of Bari.