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The history of Line 1

1964-2014: 50 years of M1

The underground railway system designed by Metropolitana Milanese constitutes the public works which have had the greatest effect on urban planning and on the transport network of the City.
The idea of affordable mass underground public transport dates back to the times of the first industrial revolution, as an attempt to meet the new transport needs of workers. Following the example of the large American and European capitals, Milan began developing its first projects at the beginning of the 20th century, but these had to be laid aside due to the two world wars and the lack of funding.
In the rest of the world, Stockholm, Toronto, Leningrad, Nagoya, Berlin, Moscow, Tokyo and many other cities were starting infrastructure construction works for underground public transport. Milan had to wait until the end of the Second World War and the economic boom of post-war reconstruction before starting excavations. Finally, on 6 April 1952, the City council entrusted the public works department of the Municipality with the task of preparing the executive design for the first metro line. It took three more years to obtain the approval from the Ministry of Transport.

Starting the works

This very demanding project from both technical and financial points of view, led the Municipality to set up a dedicated joint-stock company. On 6 October 1955 Metropolitana Milanese Spa came into being with the initial capital of 500 million lire: 499 shares were owned by the municipality and one by SEA, the public airport operator. The first chairman was Mr Ercole Bottani, a professor of engineering at the Milan Polytechnic. The head office was established at 2, Piazza San Fedele, Milan.
The metro construction required funds which exceeded by far the original Municipality budget. To ensure consistent financing, a large debenture loan open to all residents of the City was set up. Large numbers of the Milan citizens subscribed to it enthusiastically. By the beginning of 1956, the construction group became operational. Specialist departments were set up, each with specific tasks: the Topography Department, to survey roads and squares affected by the construction works and prepare the plans on which to base the executive design; the Services Department, which liaised with the gas, water and sewerage companies and with the municipal technical services to design any alterations required, the Structure Department which was responsible for specifying the dimensions and technical characteristics of tunnels and stations. A Works Management Department and Structure Division were also set up. The first construction site opened in Viale Monte Rosa on 4 May 1957.

The first traction unit used by the Milan Metro was lowered into the tunnel on 10 December 1962, descending down the temporary ramp constructed in front of the Castello Sforzesco. In 1963 the finishing works were carried out in the stations. The design of the Albini-Helg architectural studio called for anti-slip black rubber flooring, walls in prefabricated panels, granite stairways, red-painted steel handrails. The Albini consultancy is also commissioned to conceive signage, to be produced by the graphic designer Bob Noorda. A red rectangle with white letters MM is chosen for the outside sign at the entrance stairway. The Italian Ministry of Transport subsequently specifies a prototype for entire Italy, consisting of a slightly different, single M.
On 1 November 1964 the official inauguration ceremony is held for the first line of the metro system, with the institutional representatives, many managers and engineers from ATM (the Milan urban transport operator) and Metropolitana Milanese attending. The managers of the New York, Montreal, London, Moscow and Madrid metro systems are also present. After a blessing by the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Giovanni Colombo, the first two through trains depart for Sesto Marelli at 10:40 am, bedecked with flags and with all the guests on board. The first train officially open to the general public departs at 5:05 pm of the same day.

Milan line 1