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20. 03. 12. - 15:44

Ferrari boss plans high-speed train service

Luca di Montezemolo is determined to tackle state-owned railway companies’ dominance.

The head of Italian sports car manufacturer Ferrari told Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper yesterday (Mon) he spent 650 million Euros on 25 trains. Montezemolo said he decided to make the investment as a reaction to the liberalisation of high-speed train services in Italy. The Ferrari chief said the latest endeavour of his company and business partners was the "most ambitious private project in Italy in the past 10 years".

Montezemolo said private railroad company Nuovo Transporto Viaggiatori (NTV) would connect Naples and Milan and other cities from next month. He said the plan was to offer services to Austria – where Austrian Railways (ÖBB) dominates the market – and Germany. Speaking about his plans, he said: "You have never seen such trains before. We got the best Italian food and a great cinema. It would be fantastic to offer services to Vienna."

The Ferrari boss promised that NTV’s service would be significantly faster than Trenitalia’s links. Trenitalia is owned by the state. It was founded in 2000 and has nearly 40,000 employees, around as many as ÖBB. The Austrian railroad firm has around 250 million passengers a year. Its Vienna – Salzburg Railjet service is widely considered as excellent while ÖBB’s regional services and southward connections are less acclaimed.

People opting for ÖBB’s connections to travel from Vienna to Italy often have to change trains several times before eventually reaching their destination – a strong contrast to the firm’s service between the capital and the city of Salzburg. Some of ÖBB’s Railjet trains take people from Vienna to Munich in southern Germany without forcing them to change trains en route.

Construction industry tycoon Hans Peter Haselsteiner founded private railway enterprise Westbahn to challenge ÖBB between Vienna and Salzburg, one of its most popular services. Westbahn started operating between the cities in December 2011. The company hoped to achieve an operating profit as early as in 2012. Now Westbahn boss Stefan Wehinger said the firm might miss its target.

Wehinger told Die Presse today that the intense price war between Westbahn and ÖBB could avert his company from meeting its initially envisaged goal. He explained that Westbahn’s turnover was 20 per cent lower at the moment than planned. ÖBB and Westbahn presented various special promotions during the final weeks of 2011 and the first few weeks of this year in their battle for passengers.

Westbahn not only entered the tracks but also Austrian roads last year. The firm’s affiliate Westbus launched several coach services, including a Graz – Linz link, in December. Westbus announced last month that its service between Salzburg station and Franz Josef Strauss International Airport (MUC) in Munich would be abandoned due to meagre public demand. The company said that the poor location of its bus stop was to blame. Westbus said customers experienced difficulties in finding the station due to the current construction work at Salzburg station.

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