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Monday 30 April 2012

Ferrari On Rails? Not Just Yet

A number of overexcited hacks are getting themselves into a premature state of enthusiasm over a very new and very red train that has just taken to the rails in Italy. This may be because of their having been given a freebie by the operator, and that this new beast has yet to be tested in revenue earning service – which is the only proof of the pudding worth reporting on.

What has caused the outbreak of rail enthusiasm has been the entry into the Italian market of Nuovo Transporto Viaggiatori (NTV) and their all-red Italo branded train, which is actually French, being the first fleet order for the Alstom Automotrice À Grande Vitesse (AGV), a high speed trainset which combines the distributed traction of the Pendolino trains with articulation technology of the existing TGV.

Competition: a Trenitalia Frecciarossa high speed train

These trains will compete with national operator Trenitalia and its high speed Frecciarossa trains (more prosaically called ETR500s), mainly between Milan, Rome and Naples. But, in order to get the most out of its fleet, NTV will not serve principal stations such as Termini in Rome, calling instead at Tiburtina and Ostiense in the eastern suburbs, a detail lost on the hacks.

So the press reports have homed in on NTV being led by former Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo, with the new trains christened “Italy’s Ferrari of the railways”, another gushing report telling “Ferrari’s heritage evident in the Italo high-speed train”, with a third asserting “Italy’s New ‘Bullet Train’ Aims to Shake Up Euro Travel”. This is quite a reputation given to a train with no service record to its name.

And those expecting lots of daily trips on offer will have to wait a while: the current offer is just two trains each way per day between Milan’s Porta Garibaldi station, Roma Tiburtina, and Napoli Centrale. The Rome location is connected to the city’s Metro system, but all existing long distance trains go through Termini. Using the suburban Rogoredo station in Milan is also odd.

These details have not made their way into the publicity pieces, and neither has the thought that, although train and track should now be under separate management, the tendency of operators to favour Trenitalia when push comes to shove might not have been completely erased yet. That, in turn, could cause mounting delays on those long runs from Milan to Naples.

And, as for this kind of competition coming to the UK, the nearest we will get in the near future will be German operator DB running into London through the Channel Tunnel, as I previewed a while back. No new fleets of trains are about to be ordered by di Montezemolo, or anyone else, to run in this country. And nobody should get their hopes up until the new boys in Italy have made a success of Italo.

Or not – and that would be one expensive punt.

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