SNCF acquires stake in new high-speed Italian train service

French state-owned railway SNCF has taken a 20 per cent stake in NTV, an Italian consortium that plans to launch Europe’s first privately-run high-speed train service in 2011, using Alstrom’s new generation of AGV trains.

The deal comes as part of SNCF’s strategy to expand its cross-border services. Under the exclusive arrangement, SNCF would only operate high-speed trains in Italy in conjunction with NTV. It would also provide a platform for joint expansion elsewhere in Europe.The announcement was made by Guillaume Pepy, SNCF president, and Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, NTV chairman, at a news conference in Rome.

The move follows deregulation of Europe’s railways that allows state-owned railways to compete with airlines on domestic routes. This tie-up would take it into direct competition with Alitalia.

NTV aims to run 16 services a day between Rome and Milan, cutting about 60 minutes off the four-hour journey.

NTV is the first customer for Alstom’s new AGV high-speed train with a top speed of 574km/hour. Twenty-five trains are on order at a cost of €650m.