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ROME

Air taxis promised to fly above potholes of Rome

With streets filled with potholes, buses erupting in flames and soul-crushing traffic on the ground in the Eternal City, some say the only way is up.

People look at a VoloCity drone, the air taxi created by the German company Volocopter, displayed at the Piazza San Silvestro in Rome, on November 4, 2021.
People look at a VoloCity drone, the air taxi created by the German company Volocopter, displayed at the Piazza San Silvestro in Rome, on November 4, 2021. Andreas SOLARO / AFP

A new electric air taxi could be transporting passengers from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport to the city centre within three years, according to German company Volocopter, Rome’s airport operator ADR and transportation infrastructure holding company Atlantia.

The project, called VoloCity – which is also planned for Paris and Singapore — promises to whisk people from the airport to the city in 20 minutes, with no traffic and zero emissions, travelling at a maximum speed of 110 kilometres per hour.

READ ALSO: Rome votes in mayoral election dominated by rubbish and wild boars

Initially, the taxi will carry the pilot plus one passenger, “until the aircraft will fly completely autonomously,” when it will be able to take two passengers, read a joint press release announcing plans.

Still required for the Fiumicino project is the development of “vertiports” to allow the taxis to take off and land vertically.

In Rome on Thursday, the gleaming white Volocopter flying taxi was parked in a square near the Trevi Fountain where curious onlookers were allowed to board.

A woman sits aboard the VoloCity drone air taxi at the Piazza San Silvestro in Rome, on November 4, 2021.

A woman sits aboard the VoloCity drone air taxi at the Piazza San Silvestro in Rome, on November 4, 2021. Andreas SOLARO / AFP

“I would have liked them to have thought more about the railway system before going up into the sky,” said 32-year-old Giuseppe, who declined to give his last name.

Still, he conceded: “This is a leap into the future. We talk about going to Mars, so this is the least we can do.”

Local news reports put the price of the planned 20-minute ride from Fiumicino to the city centre at 140 euros ($161), compared to a taxi, which costs 48 euros, or a 32-minute train for 14 euros.

Italy’s ancient capital suffers from a notoriously creaky public transportation system, with pothole-laden roads that wreak havoc on tyres, ageing buses that sporadically go up in flames and metro stations often shuttered for months.

READ ALSO: It’s not terrorism, just Rome’s public transport: another bus goes up in flames

The idea of flying taxis – eventually without pilots – has spread worldwide, part of a push to ease congestion on roads and limit pollution.

Various companies, including ride-services giant Uber and automaker General Motors, are working on “vertical take off and landing aircraft” (VTOL), but major challenges remain, including regulatory issues and safety concerns.

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TRAVEL NEWS

What does Italy’s general strike on Friday mean for travel?

Italian trade unions have called a nationwide general strike for Friday, May 20th. Here's a look at how travel within the country will be affected.

What does Italy’s general strike on Friday mean for travel?

The strike has been organised by a range of national and regional trade unions representing various sectors in protest at the Italian government’s spending on the Ukraine war.

Union leaders say the funds should be targeted instead at increasing workers’ wages and, in turn, families’ purchasing power.

Walter Montagnoli, national secretary of the CUB union, told SkyTG24: “The conflict needs to be stopped. […] Draghi’s government is taking military expenses to 2 percent of our GDP: national defence expenses will go from 25 to 38 billion euros, thus reducing the budget for healthcare, education, public transport, the construction industry and, naturally, pensions and wages.”

Demonstrations are set to take place in cities across Italy, including in Milan, Rome, Messina, Palermo, Catania, Cagliari, Turin, Bologna, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Turin, Genoa, La Spezia, Reggio Emilia, Trieste, Bergamo and Taranto, according to media reports.

Strike action is otherwise expected to focus on the transport sector, meaning some disruption to travel plans is likely – depending on where you are in Italy and what time you’ll be travelling.

Here’s a look at what you should know before setting out on your journey on Friday. 

Train services 

Railroad services will be affected for a period of 24 hours, from 9pm on Thursday to 9pm on Friday.

However, Trenitalia has already communicated that Freccia and Intercity trains will run regularly and essential regional services will be guaranteed in the following time frames: 6am to 9am and 6pm to 9pm.

If you’re travelling with Italo, the company has published a list of its guaranteed services on its website

Local public transport 

Local public transport including buses, trams and metro trains in Italian towns and cities will also be affected by the strike action, but the magnitude of disruption to regular services will depend largely upon the area.

Rome and Milan will likely be the most affected cities.

In Milan, metro trains will run regularly until at least 6pm, whereas buses and tram services may be affected between 8.45am and 3pm and after 6pm.

In the capital, local transport providers ATAC and TPL said services will operate normally before 8.30am and from 5pm to 8pm.

If you’ll be commuting, you’re advised to consult the website of your local transport provider before setting off.

Flights

The ENAC (Italian Civil Aviation Authority) confirmed that all flights between 7am and 10am and between 6pm and 9pm will operate as normal.

However, they strongly suggest that travellers contact their airline to check the status of their flight before leaving for the airport.

See ENAC’s website for further information.

Travelling by car

Travelling by car might also be fairly problematic (or more problematic than it usually is) as motorway toll booth staff are set to strike from 10pm on Thursday to 10pm on Friday.

While the impact may differ from one part of the country to another, this is likely to mean a smaller number of toll booths are open and, as a result, lines at some motorway entrances will be longer than usual.

Drivers are advised to consult motorway operator Autostrade per l’Italia’s traffic map for real-time updates.

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