High-speed rail in Italy

High-speed rail in Italy consists of two lines connecting most of the country's major cities. The first line connects Turin to Salerno via Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Naples, the second runs from Turin to Venice via Milan, and is under construction in parts.[1] Trains are operated with a top speed of 300 km/h (190 mph).

ETR 500 Frecciarossa (Trenitalia)
ETR 1000 Frecciarossa 1000 (Trenitalia)
AGV 575 Italo (NTV)
ETR 600 Frecciargento (Trenitalia)
ETR 675 Italo (NTV)
ETR 700 Frecciargento (Trenitalia)

Passenger service is provided by Trenitalia and, since April 2012, by NTV, the world's first private open-access operator of high-speed rail to compete with a state-owned monopoly. 25 million passengers traveled on the network in 2011.[2] In 2015, ridership increased to 55 million for Trenitalia[3] and 9.1 million for NTV,[4] for a combined 64 million passengers.


  •   NTV
  •   Trenitalia
Passenger km transported on the Italian high speed rail network[5]

The first high-speed rail route in Italy, the Direttissima, opened in 1977, connecting Rome with Florence. The top speed on the line was 250 km/h (160 mph), giving an end-to-end journey time of about 90 minutes with an average speed of 200 km/h (120 mph). This line used a 3 kV DC supply.

High-speed service was introduced on the Rome-Milan line in 1988-89 with the ETR 450 Pendolino train, with a top speed of 250 km/h and cutting travel times from about 5 hours to 4.[6] The prototype train ETR X 500 was the first Italian train to reach 300 km/h (190 mph) on the Direttissima on 25 May 1989.[6]

The Italian high-speed rail projects suffered from a number of cost overruns and delays. Corruption and unethical behaviour played a key role.[7]

In November 2018, the first high-speed freight rail in the world commenced service in Italy. The ETR 500 Mercitalia Fast train carries freight between Caserta and Bologna in 3 hours and 30 minutes, at an average speed of 180 km/h (110 mph).[8][9]

Rolling stock

Service on the high speed lines is provided by Trenitalia and privately owned NTV. Several types of high-speed trains carry out the service:

  • AGV 575: non tilting, it can reach 360 km/h (220 mph) and has a operational speed of up to 300 km/h (190 mph), operated by NTV as Italo;
  • ETR 500: non-tilting, operational speeds up to 300 km/h (190 mph), operated by Trenitalia as the Frecciarossa;
  • ETR 1000: non tilting, operated by Trenitalia as the Frecciarossa, it can reach 400 km/h (250 mph) and has operational speed of 300 km/h (190 mph).[10]
  • ETR 485, tilting, speeds up to 250 km/h (160 mph), operated by Trenitalia as the Frecciargento. It operates mainly on traditional lines;
  • ETR 600, tilting, speeds up to 250 km/h (160 mph), operated by Trenitalia as the Frecciargento. It operates mainly on traditional lines;
  • ETR 610: tilting, speeds up to 250 km/h (160 mph), operated by Trenitalia on services between Italy and Switzerland.
  • ETR 700: non tilting, speeds up to 250 km/h (160 mph), operated by Trenitalia as Frecciargento;

Current limitations on the tracks set the maximum operating speed of the trains at 300 km/h (190 mph) after plans for 360 km/h (220 mph) operations were cancelled.[11] Along with the development of ETR 1000 by AnsaldoBreda and Bombardier Transportation (which is designed to operate commercially at 360 km/h (220 mph), with a technical top speed of over 400 km/h (250 mph)), with Rete Ferroviaria Italiana working on the necessary updates to allow trains to speed up to 360 km/h (220 mph). On May 28, 2018, the Ministry for Infrastructures and Transportation and the National Association for Railway Safety decided not to run the 385 km/h tests required to allow commercial operation at 350 km/h, thus limiting the maximum commercial speed on the existing Italian high-speed lines to 300 km/h and cancelling the project.[12][13]

TGV trains also run on the Paris-Turin-Milan service, but do not use any high-speed line in Italy.[14]


The following high-speed rail lines are in use.

OpeningTravel timeTop speed
Florence–Rome "Direttissima"2541978-02-24 / 1992-05-261:18250[15]3 kV DC
Rome–Naples2052005-12-19 / 2009-12-131:08300[15]25 kV 50 Hz
Turin–Milan1252006-02-10 (Turin-Novara)
2009-12-13 (Novara-Milan)
0:44300[15]25 kV 50 Hz
PaduaVenice (Mestre)
Part of the future Milan–Venice high-speed line
252007-03-010:14220[15]3 kV DC
Part of the future Milan–Venice high-speed line
67[1]2007-06-10 (Milano-Treviglio)
2016-12-11 (Treviglio-Brescia)
0:36180 (Milano-Treviglio) [15]
300 (Treviglio-Brescia)
25 kV 50 Hz
Naples-Salerno "via Linea Monte Vesuvio" (L.M.V.)292008-060:30250[15]3 kV DC
Milan–Bologna2152008-12-13[16]0:53300[15]25 kV 50 Hz
Bologna–Florence792009-12-050:35300[15]25 kV 50 Hz

The table shows minimum and maximum (depending on stops) travel times.[17]

Bologna Florence Milan Naples Rome Turin
Bologna-0:350:533:15 (3:35)1:54 (2:03)2:02
Florence0:35-1:312:31 (2:51)1:18 (1:45)2:38
Milan0:531:31-3:50 (4:18)2:40 (3:08)0:44 (1:00)
Naples3:15 (3:35)2:31 (2:51)3:50 (4:18)-1:085:00 (5:25)
Rome1:54 (2:35)1:18 (1:45)2:40 (3:08)1:08-3:48
Turin2:022:380:44 (1:00)5:00 (5:25)3:48-

Milan to Salerno Corridor

The Milan to Salerno is the major north-south corridor of the high-speed network.

The Milan–Bologna segment opened on 13 December 2008. Its construction cost was about 6.9 billion euro. The 182 km (113 mi) line runs parallel to the Autostrada del Sole, crossing seven provinces and 32 municipalities. There are eight connections with historic lines. At the Reggio Emilia interconnection a new station designed by the Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava was opened in June 2013. Calatrava has also designed a signature bridge where the line crosses the A1 motorway. The line travels through a new multi-level station at Bologna (Italy's principal railway junction) designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki.

The Bologna–Florence segment opened on 12 December 2009, allowing a 37-minute journey between the two cities. The Bologna-Florence high-speed section was particularly complex to build mainly because about 93% of its 78.5 km (48.8 mi) runs through tunnels under the Apennines range. The line has nine tunnels, from 600 meters to 18.5 km (11.5 mi) long, separated by short surface stretches (less than 5 km in total). Florence will have a major new multi-level high speed station at Belfiore designed by British architect Norman Foster.

The Florence–Rome segment consists of the older "Direttissima" (literally: most direct) line between the two cities, with a length of 240 km (150 mi). The first high-speed line in Europe, the "Direttissima" was completed in between 1977 and 1986. This segment is being upgraded by Treno Alta Velocità. Entering Rome, high-speed trains have the option of stopping at either the new intermodal station at Tiburtina, developed by architects ABD Associate led by Paolo Desideri, or Termini station.

The Rome-Naples segment heads south from the Italian capital. Service on the first new high speed segment of the project started in December 2005. This line runs through 61 municipalities in two regions (Latium and Campania) and connects with the existing national rail network at Frosinone Nord, Cassino Sud and Caserta Nord. On 13 December 2009 Work was completed on the last 18 km of the line between Gricignano and Napoli Centrale. In the Campania region the line passes through Afragola where a major new transfer station has been built, designed by Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid.

Turin to Trieste Corridor

The Turin to Novara segment of the Turin to Trieste corridor runs for 85 km and opened in February 2006. The Novara to Milan segment opened on 12 December 2009, allowing a 59-minute journey between Milan Centrale and Turin Porta Nuova (45 minutes from Milan Porta Garibaldi to Turin Porta Susa). The two segments combine for a total of 125 km, 80% (98 km) of which are in the region of Piemonte (provinces of Turin, Vercelli and Novara) and 20% (27 km) in the region of Lombardy (province of Milan). To minimize its impact on the area, the Turin to Milan segment runs inside the existing infrastructure corridor, next to the A4 Turin-Milan motorway.

The Milan to Venice segment includes stretches from Padova to Mestre (for Venice) and Milan to Brescia now in service. Priority sections of track are under construction.[19]

Ports and Trans European Connections

A new line connecting Milan to the port of Genoa is now in development and further expansion of the trans-Alpine lines will integrate the Italian network into the European networks planned by the EU and the large intermodal pan-European transport corridors.

The objective of the new Alpine rail links is to increase rail transport, aimed mainly at supporting the forecast development of freight transport on international lines, complete interoperability between European High Speed networks, the shift from road to rail of a large percentage of freight for modal rebalancing, higher safety levels in tunnels as specified in the new European technology and construction standards.

Planned engineering works include the construction of new international lines and the upgrading of existing Italian track on the following lines:

  • Frejus (Turin-Lyons)
  • Gotthard (Chiasso-Monza and Gallarate-Bellinzona)
  • Simplon (Domodossola-Novara)
  • Brenner (Fortezza-Innsbruck)
  • Tarvisio - Semmering (Udine-Tarvisio)
  • Eastern Pass Valico Orientale (Venice-Trieste-Ronchi dei Legionari)

Future lines

See also

Further reading

  • Binari dal Tevere all'Arno. La nuova linea direttissima Roma-Firenze, Roma, Ufficio relazioni aziendali delle Ferrovie dello Stato, 1974
  • La Direttissima Roma-Firenze, in Ingegneria ferroviaria, gennaio 1978
  • Azienda autonoma Ferrovie dello Stato, Direttissima Roma-Firenze, Roma, Ufficio relazioni aziendali delle Ferrovie dello Stato, 1978
  • La Direttissima Roma-Firenze, in Ingegneria ferroviaria, marzo 1991
  • Giampaolo Mancini, Donato Carillo, Mauro Papi, Prove a 320 km/h dell'ETR 500 Politensione, in Ingegneria ferroviaria, 56 (2001), n. 8, pp. 513–519
  • Bruno Cirillo, Paolo Comastri, Pier Luigi Guida, Antonio Ventimiglia, L'Alta Velocità ferroviaria, Roma, Collegio Ingegneri Ferroviari Italiani, 2009, ISBN 978-88-95634-05-0,


  1. "Brescia high speed line construction begins". Railway Gazette. 11 May 2012. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
  2. "Alta velocità e concorrenza: parte la sfida". il Sole 24 Ore. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
  3. "Alta velocità, in dieci anni 300 milioni di passeggeri". Il Sole 24 ORE (in Italian). Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  4. "Articolo su Italiaoggi.it".
  5. "Il mercato del Trasporto Ferroviario A/V - NTV, Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori". www.ntvspa.it (in Italian). Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  6. "Alta velocità. Una storia di successi tutti italiani" (PDF). Trenitalia. Retrieved 16 December 2011.
  7. Locatelli, Giorgio; Mariani, Giacomo; Sainati, Tristano; Greco, Marco (2017-04-01). "Corruption in public projects and megaprojects: There is an elephant in the room!". International Journal of Project Management. 35 (3): 252–268. doi:10.1016/j.ijproman.2016.09.010.
  8. van Leijen, M. (11 February 2018). "High Speed freight train Italy hits the track on 7 November". ProMedia Group. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  9. van Leijen, M. (22 March 2019). "High-speed line for freight: not just fast, also on time". ProMedia Group. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  10. Marco Morino: All'Expo con il Frecciarossa 1000 Il Sole 24 Ore, 7 August 2014
  11. "Italy rejects plans to increase speed to 350km/h". International Railway Journal. 2018-05-31. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  12. "RFI fined for discrimination in planning for 360km/h operation". International Railway Journal. 2018-08-08. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  13. Lucio Cillis: Repubblica Affari e Finanza, 2018-05-28
  14. Substantial travel time differences between the French TGV (around 80 minutes) and Italian high speed trains (around 50 minutes) (Both non-stop times). This time difference of 30 minutes can only be caused by the TGV taking the slower classic route. The fast regional trains who do not take the high speed take only slightly a bit longer, but they have more stops. There is one TGV that stops in Novara with only marginal extra time. It is not possible to stop in Novara without using the Novara - Milan old classic line. Consulted 2017 and 2016 timetables.
  15. see Fascicoli Circolazione Linee links in for technical data of RFI (Rete Ferroviaria Italiana) lines
  16. Reuters Italy launches Milan-Bologna high speed train link December 13, 2008
  17. The table is based on Trenitalia timetables (2011)
  18. "Due record in prova per il Frecciarossa" (in Italian). Repubblica. 2009-02-04. Retrieved 2009-02-05.
  19. http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/news/europe/single-view/view/high-speed-network-grows-as-brescia-treviglio-route-opens.html?sword_list[]=brescia&no_cache=1
  20. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2015-03-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. Briginshaw, David. "FS to invest €94bn and double turnover by 2026".
  22. Chiandoni, Marco. "Tendering begins for Naples - Bari high-speed line".
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