Ferrari boss unveils Italy's first private high-speed train

13th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Ferrari head Luca di Montezemolo unveiled Italy's first private high-speed train near Naples on Tuesday, with his company NTV planning to take on a state monopoly in the sector starting next year.

"Finally there will be a period of competition, of choice for travellers, for citizens," Di Montezemolo said, as he inaugurated the train, applauded by about 1,000 employees of French company Alstom which is building the carriages.

The train -- named "Italo" -- is part of the latest generation of high-speed rail travel and "the most modern train in Europe," featuring a small cinema on board and a WiFi Internet connection throughout, Di Montezemolo said.

The sleek red trains with gold edging also have panoramic windows, leather seats and carriages that are wider than the classic French TGV trains. The trains will travel at a speed of around 360 kilometres (224 miles) per hour.

Ticket prices "will have to be contained. We are forced to do so since there will be competition" with Trenitalia's high-speed trains, Di Montezemolo told reporters, although no exact prices have been announced yet.

NTV has ordered 25 Italos for a total of 1.5 billion euros ($2.0 billion) including 30-year maintenance. They have not yet received formal state authorisation but company officials said this would come "very, very soon."

France's national rail company SNCF owns a 20-percent stake in NTV, which is led by a group of Italian businessmen including Di Montezemolo, NTV's president, and Diego Della Valle, the head of luxury shoemaker Tod's.

NTV's trains will eventually make 51 connections a day, travelling more than 12.3 million kilometres (7.6 million miles) per year. Company officials said they believed the service would start in March 2012.

It will connect seven Italian cities: Bologna, Florence, Milan, Naples, Rome, Salerno and Turin.

The inauguration ceremony took place in a large hangar in Nola, where the company has its maintenance workshop.

Local mayor Geremia Biancardi refused to attend Tuesday's ceremony saying the company was only creating 250 jobs in the town.

"It's not a party for us," he said.

Di Montezemolo, however, said 2,000 jobs would be created in Italy as a whole thanks to the initiative -- 1,000 for NTV and 1,000 through subcontractors.

He also said NTV was investing 90 million euros in the Nola site.

SNCF chief Guillaume Pepy said Italo was part of the rail giant's competitive strategy of buying stakes in private companies in Austria, Britain and Germany.

"There is enormous appetite for market newcomers," Pepy said.

Tuesday's ceremony came two days after the launch of Thello, a joint venture between Trenitalia and France's Transdev. Thello is the first private operator on the French rail network since it opened to competition in 2009.

Thello carried out its first trip from Paris to Venice on Sunday.

© 2011 AFP

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