The much-vaunted high-speed service between Milan and Naples in Italy got underway on April 28.
Launched by independent operator NTV (Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori), the initial route runs from Milan Porta Garibaldi, via Bologna, Florence (Firenze) and Rome to Naples Centrale.
To run the service, NTV purchased a fleet of 25 new 11-car AGV (Automotrice à grande vitesse) trains from Alstom. These are the second generation of Alstom very high-speed trains are quite different from the earlier TGV and Eurostar trains.
Traction motors are mounted under the carriages rather than in dedicated power cars, so every car can carry passengers giving the 200-metre long NTV trains a capacity of 460 passengers.
To see what all the hype has been about, RailStaff‘s Nigel Wordsworth took a trip on one of the first trains to run between Milan and Florence.
Porta Garibaldi station is the main commuter station for Milan, and all the NTV ticket machines were located down the escalators from the main concourse. They worked perfectly well in the English language, the tickets were easily collected and it was off to the platform to find the shiny red AGV train.
NTV has named its service Italo, and has introduced some novel features. Each train is divided up into three areas, rather than classes, with a total of five different ways to travel. The claim is that the comfort remains the same, it is the level of service which changes to give each passenger the choice of how they travel.
The Smart area has leather-covered seats arranged four across with a central aisle. Catering is by self-service machines and there is free Wi-Fi. The end car is laid out as a 39-seat cinema fitted with eight high-definition 19-inch screens.
In the centre of the train is the Prima area. Seats here are wider and only three across and there is a catering service. There is also a Relax car where mobile phone calls and loud conversations are banned, and a standing room Break area where passengers can stretch their legs and chat.
At the other end of the train is the Club area. Here there are only 19 seats and two 4-seater “compartments” for use by families or for company meetings while on the move. The seating is extremely comfortable and the hostess service very attentive.
With a stop at Milan Rogoredo and then at Bologna, the trip to Florence took just under two hours. Further south progress is quicker, and Rome comes up in another hour and a half and Naples just over an hour later.
With ticket prices starting from only €35 each way for the 400 miles from Milan to Naples trip, it’s not expensive either.
Writes Nigel Wordsworth