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The 'Train That Ferrari Built' Launches in Italy

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The Ferrari of trains has arrived. That’s not a figure of speech. I’m not saying there’s a new rail system that’s so fast, luxurious, and souped-up that it could epitomize what the elite sports automotive company stands for. That if it was a car, it would be a Ferrari.

No, what I’m saying is, this is Italy’s new high-speed train, literally made by Ferrari.

With a 1 billion euro ($1.3 billion) investment, Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, along with a consortium of private investors, created Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori -- the first private operator on the Italian (or any European country) high-speed rail network.

"We have brought an end to one of the longest monopolies in the history of our country,” said Montezemolo. “Finally, Italian travelers and tourists can choose.”

The fleet of 25 burgundy trains, called Italo, marks the maiden voyage of the highly anticipated Alstom AGV car, which holds the high-speed rail record at 360 kilometers per hour (223 miles per hour). But until Italy’s track infrastructure catches up, the trains will top off at 300 kph. In its first push, Italo will serve eight routes originating from Rome.  

When given the option to ride Italy’s state-run Trenitalia or the train that Ferrari built, it’s hard to see how the Italo could fail. The private train will cut travel times by up to half and offer fares at up to half the price of its government competitor. “A single trip [on Italo] from Naples to Rome can be as inexpensive as 20 [euro]. A trip on the high-speed offering by slightly slower than the Italo on this particular stretch and costs nearly double that price. The only comparable price available on the national railway is on a train that takes almost twice as long.”

Factoring in ergonomic cabin and seating design, three-course meal amenities, and entertainment options, the choice seems semplicissimo. The Ferrari train uses a locomotive-free rolling stock with separate engines under each car which not only increases capacity but makes for a smoother, quieter ride. It also consumes 15% less energy.

Meanwhile, in America, the sexiest rail option we have is the L train in Chicago. And that’s only because of what Rebecca De Mornay and Tom Cruise did on it in Risky Business.

That being said, a national high-speed rail network isn’t a total pipe dream here in the states. A joint public-private venture on a 220 mph line in California, with investment from companies like General Electric (GE), is still in the works.

But it’s certainly no Ferrari.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.