The first completed bodyshell was unveiled in the presence of Italian State Railways (FS) CEO Mr Mauro Moretti, Trenitalia CEO Mr Vincenzo Soprano, Mr Antonino Turicchi, president of Alstom Italy, and Mr Pierre Louis Bertina, president and CEO of Alstom Ferroviaria.

Alstom was selected last October for the €450m contract to supply an initial tranche of 70 single-deck trains for the regions of Abruzzo, Calabria, Marche, Umbria, Lazio and Veneto. In Lazio the trains will be used on shuttle services between Fiumicino Airport and Rome Termini. The contract includes options an additional 20 sets.

The 82.2m-long five-car sets will be capable of operating at up to 160km/h. The regional trains will seat 288 passengers with two wheelchair spaces, although interior configuration will vary according to the trains' intended use. For example, the Fiumicino Airport sets will have fewer seats and more luggage space.

Alstom has taken on 300 additional staff on fixed-term contracts at Savigliano in order to honour the delivery date of January 2014 for the first train. Trenitalia has specified deliveries at a rate of four trains per month from June 2014, and a night shift will be introduced at the plant to ensure the schedule is met.

Alstom says that because the design is a development of the Minuetto already in service with Trenitalia, the certification of the Coradia Meridian is expected to be a rapid process, with the trains due to be approved in November 2013.

A new subsidiary has been established by the manufacturer to maintain the fleet, although Trenitalia has yet to decide whether it will opt for a five, 10, 15, or 20-year term.

Speaking at the event, Soprano thanked Alstom for respecting the tight delivery schedule. Moretti added that FS is keen to continue working with Alstom if it delivers a reliable fleet in a short timescale.

Moretti also said that Trenitalia is eager to win contracts to operate regional services both in Italy and abroad. "We are not afraid of market opening, we look forward to offering our services," he says.