While Ferrari has been known mostly for its sports cars, the Italian automaker's chief has recently taken on another high-speed venture. Last Friday the first new "Ferrari train" rolled out of Rome's Tiburtina station. The luxurious, red-painted train is one of 25 such trains to be produced by the privately-owned Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori (NTV), founded by Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo along with Diego Della Valle and French train organization SNCF.
Seats on the trains range from 45 Euros (US$60) to 360 Euros (US$480) for the Rome-Milan route. Amenities include personal media centers, power outlets, tunnel-proof WiFi, as well as cinema carriages, which will show new releases on large screens.
The NTV trains are based on Alstoms' AGV technology, built from 98 percent recycled content. The trains are 10 percent lighter than their typical high-speed trains, a move which will in turn reduce their energy consumption by 15 percent. Thanks to an aero-acoustic design, the trains run at 360 kph (223 mph) with the same acoustic comfort level as other high-speed trains at 300 kph (190 mph).
The venture took shape after the European Union moved to liberalize the train market in 2006. The company hopes to break even within three years, taking on 20-25 percent of the train passenger market from government-run Trenitalia. Service begins for the public on April 28 in cities along the Naples-Milan corridor. All 25 NTV trains should be operational by the end of the year, extending service to Salerno, Turin, and Venice.
It is too early to determine the company's success, but with rising gas and airline prices, efficient train travel has environmental as well as financial advantages. Doubtless many Americans would be pleased to see such initiatives on this side of the Atlantic.
Photo: Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori