When I first read this story, I thought it was some kind of belated April Fools post. A Ferarri train you say? Seems impossible, impractical, unaffordable. Yet the Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori (NTV) is the first, and largest private high-speed rail line to open in Europe, and many rich and powerful people have attached their names to this project. Chief among them is Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, and the echo of the car company he heads is all over this new high-speed train.
With $1.3 billion on the line, the NTV high-speed rail line between Rome and eight other Italian series is a big bet any way you slice it. The plan is to eventually run 25 trains at speeds of up to 190 mph (300 kph), even though the trains can go as fast as 223 mph (360 kph). By 2014, Montezemolo hopes that NTV will capture a 25% share of the Italian train market, which will allow them to break even. NTV makes its maiden voyage at the end of this week.
And they might do better than they hope is these numbers to be believed. A standard leather-lined seat (trimmed in unmistakable Ferrari red) will set you back $60 for the Rome-to-Milan route, a 5 ½ hour, 360 mile journey by car. If the NTV can manage an average speed of just 150 mph, it would be able to complete the journey in about half the time. You’ll also have access to tunnel-proof wireless internet, personal media centers, and many other on-board amenities. For $480 you can have a four-person cabin room with even more privacy and personal space, while a mid-priced seat (seen below) will give you access to the full media center open and “relaxed” cabins where cell phones are banned.
It is both difficult and unfair to compare the price of a plane ticket in America to the price of a train ticket in Italy. Even so, with gas at or near $4.00 a gallon in most parts of a U.S., a $60 train ticket certainly looks and feels competitive. And I doubt there are many airlines that would fly you from Boston to Washington D.C. for $60 in a roomy, leather-lined seat. I do not understand how people can complain about airlines so vehemently, yet they stifle any attempt to offer a viable alternative to air travel.
I guess I am starting off Monday frustrated, because it doesn’t seem like real high-speed rail is ever coming to America.