The retrospective agreement began on January 1 and is valid until December 31 2016, covering the operation of 9.5 million train-km per year at an annual cost of €111.5m.

The deal includes provisions for the modernisation of rolling stock thanks to a €190m investment by the two parties, with Trenitalia contributing €40m and the region €150m, which will be divided into two tranches of €100m and €50m.

Trenitalia will continue to operate an enhanced timetable on the line between Palermo and Catania, the two largest cities on the island, which was introduced on May 3 following the collapse of a bridge on the parallel A19 highway. This cut the journey time on the 243km route from 3h 20min to 2h 47 min and increased the number of weekday services from one return trip to seven.

Under the agreement Sicily will also work with the Italian State Railways (FS) Foundation to improve the quality of services and co-operate on the operation of tourist trains.

The regional government plans to tender a much longer contract for the operation of regional services on the island from 2017 onwards.