Catching sight of a streak of red flashing across the countryside always raises excitement amongst fans of Italian design. Aerodynamic design...sleekly styled...yes, a Ferrari has been spotted. The brief spike of adrenaline fades, though; even if that high speed thrill were within fiscal reach, the environmental cost can hardly be justified.
No more. The "Ferrari thrill" has gone mass transit. When the European Union liberalized the train market in 2006, Ferrari president Luca Cordero di Montezemolo founded the company Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori, along with Diego Della Valle, of the luxury goods company Tod's, and SNCF, the French train concern. On Friday, one of 25 luxurious, red, high speed models named Italo, widely dubbed the "Ferrari train", made its maiden voyage out of Rome's Tiburtina station.
Unique Travel ComfortsSeats are available in three classes, with personal media centers, power supplies, and tunnel-proof wireless internet available -- fully suited to draw customers away from the airlines. Trains offer attractive alternatives to planes, which suffer from weather upsets, increasingly disruptive security protocols, and emit polluting contrails directly into the sensitive upper atmosphere.
NLV has prioritized keeping train travel cost effective in the economical "Smart" class, where 45 Euros (US $60) buys a roomy leather seat in a reduced noise car on the Rome-Milan route. A "Club" seat in the four seat "private salons" comes at a high premium, lightening the traveler's wallet by 360 Euros (US $480) on the same route. In the mid-price range, first class seats are available in both open and "relax" cabins, where cell phones are banned.
Truly unique: Cinema carriages will offer first-run movies on screens designed to mimic the immersion feeling of large screen cinemas. Sound-suppressing personal audio systems will deliver the soundtracks in four languages.
The high speed trains, based on the Alstom AGV technology, boast 98% recycled content in their construction. Weighing 10% less than similar high speed trains will reduce energy demand 15%, saving 650,000 kWh on 500,000km of annual travel. Nonetheless, the Italo is the first very high speed train to meet European safety standards, protecting passenger safety in case of a train crash.
Aero-acoustic design reduces drag 15% and minimizes noise both within and outside of the trains, allowing the Italo to run at 360km/h (223 mph) at the same level of acoustic comfort as the competitors at 300 km/h (190 mph). Distribution of the motive force along the entire train, instead of in locomotives located at the front and/or back, expands passenger capacity.
Moreover, the introduction of competition into the train market will attract more passengers to mass transit as ideas like the "cinema carriage" grab customers tired of exhausting commutes or stressful air traffic. NLV will also offer travelers a special lounge at train stations, contributing to a more pleasant mass transit experience.
NTV expects to break even in three years, by taking 20 to 25 percent share of the train passenger market from state-owned Trenitalia. Public service begins April 28 in the Naples – Rome – Florence– Bologne – Milan corridor. Services will be extended to Salerno, Turin, and Venice by the end of the year, when all 25 AGV trains come into service.