Train service resumes near Aviano Air Base to Sacile and Maniago
By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 11, 2017
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Americans who have been based at Aviano only in recent years will see something new starting this week: the passing of trains through the city.
The service connecting the cities of Sacile to the southwest and Maniago to the northeast resumes after coming to an abrupt halt in 2012. Since then, a bus has been the only form of public transportation, making four trips daily between the two cities.
The route isn’t expected to be heavily trafficked — some might use it for daily commuting — but the service will begin with 11 daily trips in each direction. That’s several more than it had before shutting down.
The current schedule calls for the first trains westward arriving at Aviano at 6:08 a.m., with the last trains from Sacile arriving at 7:29 p.m.
Thousands of Americans live within a few miles of the tracks for the route and pass over them on their daily commutes. The track separates the two main areas of the base: the flight line and Area 1.
That’s led the base to issue a warning for drivers to slow down over tracks, which until recently had no warning lights or crossing gates.
“We encourage everyone to be aware of these newly active railroad tracks for safety and planning purposes,” said Capt. Tom Barger, 31st Fighter Wing spokesman.
Speed limits around the crossings are generally 50 kilometers per hour, but local motorists — Italian and American alike — often exceed that speed.
Those based at Aviano could use the local station as a start for long trips. Pordenone, about a 20-minute drive away, is a main train hub, but finding a free or cheap parking spot there can be a challenge. Sacile is a secondary hub, and it will now be possible to get there via train from Aviano and then travel on to the rest of Italy and Europe.
“We hope that families are able to make use of the renewed train routes to more easily explore the local area and take advantage of being a part of this great community,” Barger said.
Italians share that hope, too.
Andrea Carli, Maniago’s mayor, said in an email that a key reason the service is being restarted is to increase tourism. Several other projects will now go forward, including extending a bicycle path that runs parallel to the reopened route, and extending bus service from the reopened stations in Aviano and Maniago to other nearby potential tourist spots.
Work is already underway to extend the route from Maniago to Gemona farther east and closer to the Austrian and Slovenian borders.
Carli described the resumption of train service as “very rapid compared to the normality of Italian projects.”
Carli said a special steam locomotive geared specifically for tourists will run on the weekends starting in April.