Italy’s agriculture minister, Francesco Lollobrigida, refuses to resign over accusations of treating the country’s rail service as his “personal luxury car”. He allegedly forced a high-speed train to make an unscheduled stop near Rome so he could disembark and continue on his way.
Francesco Lollobrigida, the right-wing brother-in-law of the Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, was reportedly heading to Caivano, on the outskirts of Naples, to inaugurate an urban park when the train on which he was travelling suffered a series of delays.
Already almost two hours late by the time the minister boarded at Rome, the train accumulated further delays on its journey southwards due to a fault on the high-speed line.
According to the newspaper il Fatto Quotidiano, Lollobrigida was worried he would miss the inauguration. He asked the train operator, Trenitalia, to intervene and authorise an “extraordinary stop” in Ciampino, near the capital.
The minister and his entourage were reportedly met by a government car that whisked them away to Caivano to ensure they arrived on time.
On Wednesday, Lollobrigida said: “I asked if it was possible to get off at one of these stops. The train stopped at Ciampino, where an extraordinary stop was made available for everyone to get off.”
Trenitalia said: “The stop was arranged at Ciampino station, where members of the government present on board got off, in order to be able to meet institutional commitments.”
Criticism from opposition parties
The incident has led to harsh criticism from opposition parties, with the former Italian prime minister and Italia Viva leader, Matteo Renzi, calling it an “unprecedented abuse of power”. If the reports are proved true, Renzi said, Lollobrigida should resign.
A co-leader of Green Europe, Angelo Bonelli, said it must be established whether Lollobrigida had abused his office. The leader of More Europe, Riccardo Magi, said, “If it’s true that Lollobrigida got a train to stop for his own convenience then he must explain himself in parliament.”
Andrea Casu, of the centre-left Democratic party, condemned the incident as an act of “unjustifiable arrogance,” highlighting the frustrations faced by other passengers who had already been dealing with delays.
“Minister Lollobrigida cannot turn the Italian trains into his personal luxury car,” Casu told the press.
“The extraordinary stop imposed by Lollobrigida in Ciampino is a slap in the face for all the citizens who were on the same delayed train, and for all the people who face daily service disruptions caused by the lack of funding in the transportation sector, which is part of the Meloni government. We will immediately submit an inquiry in parliament to shed immediate light on this ugly situation,” he added.
The minister’s Brothers of Italy party said the criticism directed at Lollobrigida was “disgraceful” and “unacceptable” and said he had only made sure that he could get to an important commitment. The government was trying to clean up crime-ridden Caivano, it added, and Lollobrigida had taken steps to get to the inauguration “without in any way provoking any damage to the other passengers.”