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New High-Speed Train to Debut in Italy

Italo, a brand-new high-speed train, will debut in Italy on April 28. Initial runs will be on Italy's main high-speed trunk line, Milan-Bologna-Florence-Rome-Naples. As the line adds additional train sets, it will extend service on the Milan-to-Torino and Bologna-to-Venice routes. It will also increase frequencies on the trunk line, ultimately reaching 20 daily round-trips on the core Bologna-Florence-Rome sector.

Italo will announce initial fares and schedules on April 12 and will start selling tickets on April 15.

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Italo's tickets will be available through all sales channels. An Italo spokesperson confirmed that Rail Europe will sell tickets, just as it does with the current Alta Velocita trains. For now, Rail Europe does not yet have any information about whether Italo will be incorporated into the various European rail-pass families.

Italo represents an emerging development in European rail. As in Britain, Italy has opened its national tracks network to competing private train operators. As far as we know, however, Italy is the first country to allow duplicate operations by competing rail operators. Britain and France lease exclusive operating rights on major routes to single companies, although those companies do use some of the same tracks.

Many rail mavens believe that the open-access model, as implemented by Italo, will be the model for future rail operations everywhere. Some are even proposing such an approach for U.S. railroads, although you shouldn't hold your breath until that happens.

Italian high-speed rail competition will certainly be a win-win for travelers. Initial publicity blurbs make the Italo product look very good, but the existing Alta Velocity trains in Italy are already very good. Competition should keep both of them that way.

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