The development of high-speed rail is not only transforming transportation in Spain, it has also reinvigorated its rail industry. High-speed rail; has brought numerous technical developments — gauge width changers, local high-speed rail rolling stock, pioneering development and implementation of signaling and train control ERMTS technology — and launched Spain‘s engineering, construction and equipment companies as world-class players.
The success of Spain’s high-speed operations relies heavily on RENFE customer-oriented services and fare policies, as demonstrated by their unique fare reimbursement policies and more than 99 percent punctuality rate.
Critical High-Speed Issues
“Probably, all aspects of high-speed rail are equally critical for its success,” says Susana Mate from the Trade Commission of Spain.
“The different stages of planning, construction, operation and maintenance are all interdependent to an extent: planning looks into travel patterns and projections, preferred routes and cost analysis, whose accuracy will determine future construction costs and operation features.
“Engineering, construction, and maintenance are equally critical, first and foremost for passenger safety, but also for enabling the full potential of the benefits of high-speed rail.
“Then, operators are the interface of the high-speed rail system with the public, and need to work every day delivering the benefits of the service to passengers.”
NTV was founded in 2006 by Ferrari president, Luca di Montezemolo, Mr Diego Della Valle, owner of luxury brand Tod’s, Gianni Punzo, president of the logistic center Interporto Campano, and NTV CEO Guiseppe Sciarrone.
“The founding partners were later joined by other major stakeholders: Intesa Sanpaolo Bank, Generali Group and the French railways, SNCF,” says Sciarrone.
The first totally private high-speed rail operator in Italy, NTV’s objective is to contribute to the growth of the Italian railway system, capitalizing on the government’s investment in high-speed rail.
“For the first time in the Italian railway history, we will bring competition in to the railway market, since we’ll be competing directly with the state operator, Trenitalia, covering the same lines,” says Sciarrone who believes competition will increase the quality of rail in Italy.
With commercial service slated to begin in the summer of 2011, the ITALO line will open with 25 Alstom AGV high-speed trains and have stops in Italy’s most important destinations, including Turin, Milan, Bologna, Venice, Florence, Rom, Naples and more.
Critical High-Speed Issues
“Being newcomers has both great advantages and risks,” says Sciarrone.
“We’re stepping in to a market that is opening up and will no longer be a monopoly. We will be the first company to compete in this market. And this is certainly an advantage.
“On the other hand, we have to invest a lot without having previous experiences to look at and to use as a reference point or a model.
“We decided to be the first in Italy because in this country there was already a positive experience of liberalization, although only in the freight sector. This experience has taught us that the deregulation works — for the newcomers, quality of service becomes a priority and, if the incumbent doesn’t want to see its market share fall, it must elevate its quality level too. This global improvement allows a growth and a better performance of the market and attracts more passengers,” says Sciarrone.
“NTV’s first objective was to close a framework agreement with the infrastructure manager to guarantee us the infrastructure capacity for our services. To start a railway business of this kind requires massive investments and it’s certainly not advisable to do it if first you haven’t obtained this crucial certainty.
“We are very close to our kick off. We are building a 90 million maintenance depot in Nola, in the South of Italy, and we are already testing with Alstom the first ITALO prototype on the Italian lines for the validation procedure.”