The contract has an estimated value of around €400m and covers the 15.5km Naples Afragola - Cancello section of the line.

The closing date for bids is October 13 and construction is expected to take around six years to complete.

The 146.6km line will reduce the Naples - Bari journey time from 3h 45min to two hours, while the Rome - Bari trip will be cut from 3h 59min to three hours.

The project is being implemented under the government's "unlock Italy" initiative, which seeks to reduce the infrastructural gap between north and south.