"The biggest change to rail is that it can no longer be called the transportation industry – we have now moved into the mobility industry."
In Italy a shocking 85% of people travel in private cars as opposed to public transport. Hoping to change this is Trenitalia, Italy’s state-owned rail operator in charge of most passenger rail journeys in the country. This week our content executive Emily O’Dowd was able to gain a better insight into Italy’s railways in an interview with Federica Santini, Trenitalia’s Chief Strategy Officer. After having flown back from Paris for work commitments, Federica informed SmartRail World that she is currently the youngest female to occupy an executive position in the company. This is something she feels very proud of. In her broad role which ranges from planning to business strategy; international and European projects; investment analysis; sustainability and channelling innovation, Federica sheds light on the Italian transportation industry and her future predictions for rail in the coming years.
EOD: What first led you to your current role?
Federica Santini (FS): I first started working at Trenitalia in June last year. Before taking this job I had always worked in the private sector. In my previous role I worked for the consultancy company Ernest and Young (EY) where I was the senior executive leading all the transportation and railway related issues. At that time, Trenitalia, the Italian Ministry of Infrastructures and Transportation and the European Commission were some of my main clients, so it just seemed like a natural progression into the job that I now have. I am considered pretty young for the role I have, plus I am a woman! Therefore, I feel so grateful to have been offered this because I know just how challenging it can be to enter the company externally. Fortunately, Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane group is currently working to deliver its “Women in Motion” project which is aimed to improve the female presence in technical roles.
Frederica Santini will be one of our guest speakers at this year's SmartRail Europe including Vish Kalsapura, Principle Engineer, Digital Railway, Network Rail and Christian Schang, Director of Operations, SNCF. Read the full agenda here.
EOD: What do you enjoy most about working in the rail industry?
FS: It is a fascinating role because I feel that we can really improve the quality of people’s lives from commuters, to students. With more than 8,000 trains in operation every day it is our aim to get people into work on time and ensure they get home to their families to the evening. Our service greatly impacts a huge amount of people so it is important that we deliver an efficient and comfortable service. One of our main focuses in the company is to improve the quality of the passenger’s experience. In a way, Trenitalia is like a life partner to its passengers and we need to make sure this service is something we are always proud of.
EOD: What changes have you noticed in the transportation industry over the past ten years?
FS: With regards to the Italian rail sector, there has been a lot more focus on the customer’s experience. Nowadays, railways are no longer just a transportation service but they are an extension of a passenger’s mobility. I would say that the biggest change to rail is that it can no longer be called the transportation industry – we have now moved into the mobility industry.
EOD: What are the latest projects that you’ve been working on?
FS: Trenitalia recently entered the British market, which is very exciting. We have just finalised our partner agreement with National Express and this is something we are very proud of. This deal was first proposed in 2016 and Trenitalia has been the first non-British operator to have been awarded the PQQ Passport to operate in the UK. Additionally, we acquired the C2C franchise from National Express and announced a joint venture with First Group to bid together for the East Midlands and West Coast Partnership rail franchise. Trenitalia have been able to prove to the UK Department for Transport that we have made real progress and can deliver an efficient service to passengers. Then at an international level we acquired 100% shares of Thello in France. International growth is going to be very important for us moving forward as a company. In September 2016 Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane approved a ten year industrial plan which is very ambitious; the current revenue from international projects currently stands at 13%, but we are looking to increase this to 23% by 2026.
EOD: What is so lucrative about entering these foreign markets?
FS: Firstly it is the idea of being able to serve a country, such as the UK where the commuter culture is a lot bigger than it is in Italy at the moment. Additionally, we are learning about the new ways that we need to compete with other rail operators across the world. For example in Britain – we won’t be competing in the market but rather, for it. So, I think it will be a useful learning curve.
EOD: How do you think rail mobility will change over the next ten years?
FS: I think our main aim should be to take people out of private cars and promote shared transport. This needs to be done first of all for the sake of our environment. We do strongly believe that integrated mobility is the key for the future.
EOD: And lastly, what is your favourite rail journey?
FS: I will be bias and suggest that my favourite rail journey is the high-speed rail line from Rome to Milan. I live in Rome but my family live in Milan and getting there when I was a child used to take six hours! Now if I want to visit my grandma just for lunch I can do this in just under three hours.
EOD: Thank you so much for your time today Federica, and congratulations on becoming the first and youngest female to receive an executive position at Trenitalia!
Federica will also feature in our next article 'Women in Rail', if you would like to contribute then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
5 minutes with… You? Each Friday the team here at SmartRail World brings you a new 5 minutes with... interview. This fun, fast-paced feature will help you get to know more about personalities across the industry, their ideas and experiences and of course their own favourite rail journey! Want to take part? Email: email@example.com to find out more.
The last 5 minutes with... Alidad Moghaddam, European Director of Trainline for Business
Our next 5 minutes with... Chris Roberts, Vice President and Business Line Director - Asset Management and Business Strategy at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff
For other related stories you might be interested in: