Since the boat service on the river Tiber in Rome started operating in April 2003, 250,000 passengers have used it. Of these, 170,000 have used the fleet of five boats running a scheduled service from the Tiber Island to the Olympic stadium. 62,000 people have taken the dinner cruise boat, which will be supplemented by a second vessel, scheduled to go into operation in mid-May.

The river boat service is mainly designed to attract tourists but it is also hoped that ordinary commuters will eventually take to the idea of getting from one part of the historic centre to another by boat. However the difficult access from the traffic-clogged embankments to the river discourages many would-be commuters. For this reason the city is planning four lifts along the embankments; at Ponte Cavour, for Prati and Piazza del Popolo; at Ponte S. Angelo for Castel S. Angelo and the Vatican; at Lungotevere Tebaldi, close to the Campo de' Fiori part of town; at Ponte Garibaldi for the Tiber Island and Trastevere.

However, this week high water levels on the Tiber have put a stop to most navigation; it is hoped that the river will return to normal by Thursday 29 April, when the boats should operate free of charge to celebrate the service's anniversary.

The price of a single trip on the river is 1; a day pass costs 2.30 and a monthly pass 30. A river and city guided tour costs 32 and a two-hour evening cruise with a meal costs 43 per person. For information see www.battellidiroma.it.

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