Rome moves to save bus company

Capital lends ATAC €77 million in emergency funding

Rome has come to the rescue once again of the capital's troubled bus company ATAC which has received a €77 million emergency loan from the city.

The measure has averted the risk, at least for the moment, of the capital's buses grinding to a halt over the company being unable to pay its half a billion euro debts.

The city stepped in after fuel suppliers said they were unwilling to continue providing fuel in the absence of guaranteed payment.

The Rome daily newspaper Il Messaggero reported that the outstanding debts incurred by ATAC include €6 million owed to lift company Kone, for servicing the metro's escalators and lifts, and a €1.7 million debt to Xerox for servicing the company's printers.

Il Messaggero also reported that Italy's financial authorities have been investigating anomalies in the company's accounts between 2005 and 2012, inlcuding alleged false invoices and the awarding of suspect contracts.

These include ATAC's “urgent” decision in 2010 to buy thousands of brake pads for the metro trains it operates, paying around €7,000 for each brake pad even though the price should have been about €1,700.

During that time there was also a reported €20 million spent on external legal advice, despite the fact that there were 60 lawyers already on the ATAC pay roll.

Before this latest bailout, Rome's mayor Ignazio Marino described the situation as a "real risk" of bankruptcy and said the city was "putting in place all possible means" to keep the company afloat.

In September Marino demanded emergency funding from the government, otherwise he said there would not be enough cash to pay the October salaries to the employees of the cash-strapped company whose majority shareholder is the capital.

The news comes days after ATAC commuters were warned that they face a 10 per cent increase in ticket prices next year.

Over the last several years the company has been plagued by allegations of corruption, nepotism and absenteeism.