The unveiling of the Italian “Ferrari train”, as it has been dubbed by the media, was done with much fanfare this week. But behind the bright red livery, luxury interiors and speed, there is a clear signal about how the business of running high speed trains in Europe is changing.

Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori (NTV) is Europe’s first private operator of high speed trains. As long as the trains receive safety approval, the company’s high speed service will be running between Milan and Naples by March next year. NTV is said to have invested almost €1 billion in the venture, which is branded “Italo”.

It’s not just the trains that are novel. The pricing and marketing of the service is designed to compete in a market dominated by the state-owned national train operator Trenitalia, and with short haul air travel. There will be a high-end business class, where passengers will be served food and drink and be able to surf the internet, watch TV or visit the on-board cinema. There will be second class, and there will also be very cheap economy class tickets, where the earlier you book your seat, the cheaper it will be.

NTV isn’t the only private high speed train service planned in Europe. Trenitalia is also part of a joint venture with Veolia to launch France’s first privately-owned service. “Thello” plans to run affordable sleeper trains between Paris and Venice. Thello is also competing against the state-owned incumbent, and similarly to Italo will offer three classes of travel, with food provided by LSG Sky Chefs.

How these new private European train operating companies will perform remains to be seen, but their progress will be monitored closely by those looking to replicate success in the rest of Europe.


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