In the public letter, NTV president Mr Luca di Montezemolo complains to Prime Minister Mr Mario Monti about the obstacles NTV has to face to operate in the Italian market.

The row stems from RFI's decision to erect a 2m-high fence at Rome Ostiense station which forces passengers using NTV's new service centre, the station's former air terminal, to make a 5-minute detour to reach to board NTV trains on platform 15.

Montezemelo goes on to decry what he sees as RFI's failure to fit out the high-speed station at Tiburtina. "After two public official openings, the first with former Prime Minister Mr Silvio Berlusconi, then last November with President Mr Giorgio Napolitano, the station still lacks restaurants, bookshops, information offices and car parks. Is this the kind of service we want to offer to Italy and to international guests? Are these the conditions in which a private railway company should operate?"

Commercial space at Tiburtina will be managed by Italian State Railways (FS) subsidiary Centostazioni, which won a competitive tender for the contract.

Montezemolo calls on the government to break up FS and complete the separation of RFI from FS train operating subsidiary Trenitalia. "We will pay RFI €120m each year for the next 10 years, and there is nothing to stop FS spending this money on new high-speed trains for Trenitalia," he says, arguing that as long as this situation persists NTV and Trenitalia will not compete on equal terms.

The origin of the dispute is the sale of the air terminal at Ostiense by RFI in December 2008 to a company called Geal. RFI says that the contract of sale clearly specified that in order to meet railway safety rules the buyer of the area had to immediately separate the railway infrastructure from the air terminal, which has now been converted in a new passenger lounge for NTV. RFI says the land that was sold is in a very built up area and lost its "open to the public railway space" function a long time ago. As the original purchaser of the area failed to abide by the law, RFI erected the fence to correctly define the areas.