Italian Bullet Trains Open to Private Competitor

Gaia Pianigiani discusses the recent opening of a new, luxury high-speed rail line in Italy – Europe's first private competitor to domestic, state-run HSR.
May 2, 2012, 10am PDT | Ryan Lue
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A new contender on the high-speed rail scene made its maiden voyages Saturday, as Italian travelers boarded the plum-red cars of Italo for 186-mile-an-hour jaunts between Milan and Naples.

Operated by Nuovo Transporto Viaggiatori, Italo caters to the luxury market, offering "free Wi-Fi, satellite television, a 39-seat cinema carriage, leather seats manufactured by the luxury furniture maker Poltrona Frau, and assistance and welcome points in the main stations designed by the team of the Italian architect Stefano Boeri," Pianigiani writes.

"We have brought an end to one of the longest monopolies in the history of our country," said Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, president of NTV. "Finally, Italian travelers and tourists can choose."

While Italians are riding high-speed rail much more now than just three years ago, the company still faces important challenges. "The risk NTV is taking is certainly very high, amplified by Italy's current economic crisis and the improvement of the Italian infrastructure that is still lagging behind," said Oliviero Baccelli of the Center for Research on Regional Economics, Transport and Tourism at Bocconi University. "But high-speed in Italy has very, very significant development margins."

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Published on Saturday, April 28, 2012 in The New York Times
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