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Europe's first privately owned high-speed train welcomes passengers

posted 28 Apr 2012, 07:30 by Mpelembe   [ updated 28 Apr 2012, 07:31 ]

Europe's first privately owned high-speed train has opened for business with commuters happy to finally have a choice on which company to go with for their train journey.

ROME, ITALY (APRIL 28, 2012) (REUTERS) - Europe's first privately owned high-speed train service opened for business on Saturday (April 28), with commuters at Rome's Tibertina station happy to finally have a choice of companies to book their journeys with.

The new company NTV, or Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori is owned by Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo and a consortium of private investors. They say they can provide a better high-speed train service between major Italian cities than state-run Trenitalia, taking advantage of a 2006 European Union move to open up track to competition. It will eventually run a fleet of 25 trains and hopes to snatch up some 25 percent of the market, attracting 8-9 million passengers.

Platform 15 was filling up with passengers keen for the new experience.

"I wish them very good luck with this new company, I hope it is real competition and not fake like many others. I applaud this initiative because today with the state of our economy they have created new jobs. It's good news and very important," said Amedeo Romiti who was waiting to travel to Naples.

"It's actually very exciting, I used to work for the Ministry of Transport so I have followed the whole story of NTV and other private companies and finally we've made it. As soon as I had a chance I bought a ticket immediately," added Leonardo Annese.

The train, painted in Ferrari red, can travel up to 360 kilometres an hour but at that moment is obliged to stay under 300km/hour. It has 450 seats and uses high-speed AGV cars built by French transport and power engineering group Alstom.

NTV hopes to win customers away from the state-owned Trenitalia, which uses the Italian-made ETR 500 on its high-speed runs, by offering better onboard services, elegance and free amenities such Wi-Fi, live television and first-run films. The business plan uses a tiered airline-style fare structure for its three "ambiances" - Club, Prima and Smart - and includes low-cost fares in the Smart "ambience" for tickets that are booked early and for off-peak times.

Lorenzo Mazzei, an architecture student, had travelled from Florence on the train and was impressed with the service being precisely on time, but admitted that he had bought his ticket on a very special offer and would definitely continue to use it as long as the prices remained lower than Trenitalia.

"If they have to increase prices they will lose passengers because there's Trenitalia. So they will inevitably have to keep their prices competitive," said Mazzei.

NTV claims that its guiding mantra is service, style, and competition. It offers, for example, quality meals at competitive prices served in passenger seats instead of restaurant cars and prepared by Eataly, the food emporium with shops in Italy, the United States and Japan. All the seats, even the cheapest, are in plush leather made by luxury furniture maker Poltrona Frau. A one-way ticket from Rome-Milan will cost around 88 euros and the journey will take about three hours, depending on which stations the traveller chooses, roughly the same amount of time as Trenitalia's fast trains.

But Montezemolo is betting that travellers will choose NTV for the overall experience, the customer service and the smoother ride. Apart from Rome, the NTV network will include Salerno and Naples in the south as well as Florence, Bologna, Milan, Turin, Padua and Venice in the north.