The Italian National Agency for Railway Safety (ANSF) plays a fundamental role on the Italian railway scene. It is a completely new feature in that, until it was set up, its duties had been carried out ever since the birth of the national network, by Ferrovie dello Stato (Italian State Railways – FS) and more recently, with the separation of network managers and transport managers laid down by the new European regulations, by Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (Italian Railway Network – RFI). The establishment of the Agency is a ground-breaking event for Italian railway transport, both because of the new boundary it marks between legal principles on safety and operating requirements, and because of the redistribution of skills between all the people who work in the railway world, some of whom are also complete newcomers.
The ANSF is technically independent of all the operators in the railway field; it supplies them with legal guidelines on the regulations and the requirements they must fulfil, and makes sure that safety levels are maintained or improved.
The greatest revolution introduced by the ANSF, however, is a cultural one: until today, safety on the railways was mainly achieved through a set of rules that described in detail each behaviour/rule to which anybody had to conform. Today, however, in line with the instructions that originate also at EU level, they are going towards an approach that makes operators themselves responsible, asking them to make an accurate risk analysis and consequently to establish their own standards of behaviour that will eliminate the risks. In simple terms, red signals, along with the basic standards of traffic and operation, remain the same, but safety in the railway system is guaranteed also by hundreds of other aspects that can be managed more effectively and consistently with the technical evolution of the past decades.
This is a complex, intricate world that the engineer Alberto Chiovelli, ANSF director, revealed to us in this interview, in which, as well as explaining us the principles on which the Agency is based and the institutional work it carries out, he tells us about some concrete cases it has dealt with in these four years of intensive activity.
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