italo1.jpgAlongside his fellow founder shareholders, Mr Montezemolo formally unveiled NTV's first fully-completed Alstom AGV, offering the first glimpse of the train's interior.
NTV believes the market is big enough to support the high speed operations of both Trenitalia and the new Italo services; CEO Mr Giuseppe Sciarrone says that their research suggests that there are 130,000-150,000 passengers per day travelling an average distance of 320km in Italy on long distance services between the cities to be served by the new operator.
NTV services will be branded Italo, a name that was chosen by prospective passengers using an online poll in 2008, to this NTV have added a logo which is a stylised hare which appears on the trains alongside the Italo name; the hare was chosen as it is "fast, agile and fun".
Test running for the NTV AGV started in December 2010 and alongside the existing Alstom-owned AGV prototype, four NTV AGVs have been involved in certification testing with 140,000km run between them in Italy, France and at the test circuit in Velim in the Czech Republic. All the testing and documentation for the NTV trains is complete and this is currently with the Italian Railway Safety Authority for approval; Sciarrone says this is expected soon, and Alstom sources indicate it is likely to be secured early next month.
NTV says the quality of the interior and its functionality will differentiate their new product from that of rival Trenitalia. NTV will offer three different types of accommodation with additional variations within them. The most exclusive part of the train will be Club, with 19 widely-spaced seats, some in 2+1 configuration and two four-seat compartments. The higher-capacity business-class coaches will be known as Prima (pictured) and have 2+1 seating with a 960mm pitch between seats whilst the rest of the train will be called Smart with 2+2 seating.
italo-prima.jpgAll coaches have leather seats and free wi-fi. One of the Prima cars is branded Prima Relax and will be a quiet coach, one of the Smart coaches is equipped with roof-mounted screens and described as a cinema coach; NTV will play movies on long nonstop Rome - Milan services and shorter programmes on stopping trains, initially this will be free but charges may be introduced after a few months. At seat dining will be available in Club and Prima. The trains are equipped with advanced satellite communication systems enabling live TV and uninterrupted wi-fi on most parts of the journey (the Florence to Bologna section being the exception as it is mostly in tunnel).
Fares have yet to be announced, but NTV says they will be competitive with both Trenitalia and airlines and that a dynamic pricing model will be used to manage revenue yields. This means a wide range of fares is likely to be offered depending upon time of day and day of week.
Services could start in March although NTV is wary of pre-empting the safety case approval for the trains by setting a date in advance. Initially trains will operate from Milan to Naples with six services each way per day. By December, when NTV will receive the last of its 25 trains, 50 services per day will operate including nonstop trains from Milan to Rome, which will offer a journey time of 2h 57min.
NTV was founded in December 2006 by Montezemolo and three other Italian businessmen; including Sciarrone. It has a major industry partner in the shape of French National Railways (SNCF) which owns a 20% share, while Italian financial company Generali owns 15%.
Since an initial launch in 2008, the company has recruited more than 500 staff, most of whom will work onboard the trains, and a training centre known as the NTV Hospitality School, with initial training costing around €16m.
In November 2007 NTV ordered 25 AGV trains from Alstom and also agreed a 30-year maintenance contract. NTV and Alstom then jointly designed and built the depot at Nola, a €90m investment described by Alstom as "the most modern depot in Europe", which opened last July. The trains cost €618.6m, making up the bulk of the €769.9m start-up budget.
Photos and report by Keith Fender