"This has been an important day for us and I believe also for the country because, for the first time in Europe, travellers have the opportunity to choose," declared Mr Giuseppe Sciarrone, managing director of NTV, at the launch. "We have lowest prices in Europe and offer services at least on a par with the best in Europe."

Services are being introduced gradually between now and the end of the year as the fleet of 25 AGV trains supplied by Alstom is commissioned. Currently only two round trips are being operated between Milan and Naples, but this will be stepped up to five on May 12. On May 26 the first so-called Casa Italo passenger lounge will open at Rome Ostiensa station, coupled with an increase in the number of trains per day to nine. Two more daily round trips will be added on June 30. On June 26, services will be extended south from Naples to Salerno with three trains/day and the first non-stop Rome - Milan services will be introduced. On October 27 services will introduced between Salerno, Naples, Rome, Padua and Venice. The network will be completed on December 8 with the launch of Italo services to Turin.

Around €1bn has been invested by NTV's shareholders to establish the new company and launch the service. Mr Luca di Montezemolo, president of NTV, says he expects NTV to achieve a market share of between 20 and 25% by 2014.