The privatisation is due to take place next year and could be split into several phases. Potential buyers could include domestic and international institutions as well as small private investors or FS employees.

The proposals will now be scrutinised by parliamentary commissions, and while many of the details have not yet been finalised there is political consensus on certain aspects of the structure of the sale. Minister of infrastructure and transport Mr Graziano Delrio stressed that infrastructure must remain 100% state-owned to avoid some of the mistakes of rail privatisations elsewhere in Europe.

This means Italian Railway Network (RFI) could be split from FS, which the government believes would make the infrastructure manager more neutral, benefitting open-access operators looking to enter the Italian market. Ensuring fair and equal access to infrastructure both on the conventional and high-speed network, is considered a priority.

However, the picture from FS is less transparent. In recent months tensions have emerged between FS CEO Mr Michele Mario Elia and chairman Mr Mario Messori over the final structure for the privatisation and there has been speculation in the Italian press that the prime minister may respond by implementing a shake-up of the board, whose next meeting is planned for November 26.

While it is not clear at this stage exactly which parts of the business will be sold, FS is making strategic preparations for partial privatisation, including merging its freight and logistics units into a single subsidiary, increasing integration of bus and train services (FS subsidiary Busitalia is already operating in Tuscany and Veneto), and an increased presence in international markets, as the company generates around 12% of its profits through subsidiaries such as Netinera in Germany.