Naples: Italy launched Europe`s first private high-speed train service last week, as the country looks towards the more liberal economy that Prime Minister Mario Monti wants to put on the rails.
The dark-red bullet-shaped "Italo" trains are run by NTV, a company headed by Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo who wants to take a quarter of the market from state rail network Trenitalia, the biggest employer in the country.
"Italo has arrived, the competition has kicked off," NTV told its first passengers on an inaugural trip from Rome to Naples as they admired interiors that included a cinema carriage, leather seats and panoramic windows.
The project is one example of the new ambitions of the eurozone`s third largest economy under Monti, a former EU competition commissioner who plans to shake up a sluggish economy heavily influenced by protectionist traditions.
Economics professor Monti came to power in November replacing Silvio Berlusconi and has said he wants to take on "vested interests" as well as calling for large-scale privatisations.
"We`re talking a lot about growth. This is real growth for the country by someone who invests and takes a risk," Montezemolo told reporters, pointing out that the company had invested EUR one billion (USD 1.3 billion).
"We should be proud of being the first in Europe with a private high-speed train company," said the entrepreneur, who has struggled for years to get the project up and running, condemning Trenitalia for its obstructionism.
"This is a day that shows we have confidence in our country," he said. (AFP)