High-speed rail in Italy

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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).

25 million passengers traveled on the network in 2011.[2] Passenger service is provided by Trenitalia and, since April 2012, by NTV-Italo, the world's first private open-access operator of high-speed rail to compete with a state-owned monopoly.


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.[3] 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.[3]

The Italian high-speed rail projects suffered relevant extra-costs and delay. Corruption and un-ethical behaviour played a key role. [4]

Rolling stock[edit]

See also: ElettroTreno

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

  • ETR 500: non-tilting, speeds up to 300 km/h (190 mph), operated by Trenitalia as the Frecciarossa;
  • ETR 600, ETR 610: tilting, speeds up to 250 km/h (160 mph), operated by Trenitalia as the Frecciargento. It operates mainly on traditional lines;
  • AGV575: speeds up to 360 km/h (220 mph), operated by NTV as Italo;
  • ETR 1000: operated by Trenitalia, it can reach 400 km/h (250 mph) and has operational speed of 360 km/h (220 mph).[5] Maximum speed of these trainsets is currently limited at 300 km/h (190 mph) while tracks are pending certification for 360 km/h (220 mph) operations.

Current limitations on the tracks set at 300 km/h (190 mph) the maximum operating speed of the trains. 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)), Rete Ferroviaria Italiana is working on the necessary updates to allow trains to speed up to 360 km/h (220 mph).

Secondary stock:

  • ETR 460, ETR 485: tilting, speeds up to 250 km/h (160 mph) for other services, operated by Trenitalia.
  • ETR 470: tilting, speeds up to 250 km/h (160 mph), operated by Trenitalia on services between Italy and Switzerland.

New Pendolino ETR 610 are being introduced to the Italy-Switzerland route. TGV trains also run on the Paris-Turin-Milan service, but do not use any high-speed line in Italy.[citation needed]


Italy's high speed rail network

The following high-speed rail lines are in use.

Line Length
Opening Travel time Top speed
Florence–Rome "Direttissima" 254 1978-02-24 / 1992-05-26 1:18 250 3 kV DC
Rome–Naples 205 2005-12-19 / 2009-12-13 1:08 300 25 kV 50 Hz
Turin–Milan 125 2006-02-10 (Turin-Novara)
2009-12-13 (Novara-Milan)
0:44 300 25 kV 50 Hz
PaduaVenice (Mestre)[6] 25 2007-03-01 0:14 250 3 kV DC
Milan–Brescia[6] 67[1] 2016-12-11 0:36 300 25 kV 50 Hz
Naples-Salerno 29 2008-06 0:30 250 3 kV DC
Milan–Bologna 215 2008-12-13[7] 0:53 300 25 kV 50 Hz
Bologna–Florence 79 2009-12-05 0:35 300 25 kV 50 Hz
Total 926

The table shows minimum and maximum (depending on stops) travel times.[8]

Bologna Florence Milan Naples Rome Turin
Bologna - 0:35 0:53 3:15 (3:35) 1:54 (2:03) 2:02
Florence 0:35 - 1:31 2:31 (2:51) 1:18 (1:45) 2:38
Milan 0:53 1:31 - 3:50 (4:18) 2:40 (3:08) 0:44 (1:00)
Naples 3:15 (3:35) 2:31 (2:51) 3:50 (4:18) - 1:08 5:00 (5:25)
Rome 1:54 (2:35) 1:18 (1:45) 2:40 (3:08) 1:08 - 3:48
Turin 2:02 2:38 0:44 (1:00) 5:00 (5:25) 3:48 -

Milan to Salerno Corridor[edit]

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.

An ETR 500 AV in the Milan railway station. The version ETR 500 Y1 achieved 362 km/h on the Bologna-Florence line on 4 February 2009, a new world speed record in a tunnel.[9]

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 will be developed, designed by Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid.

Turin to Trieste Corridor[edit]

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 Treviglio now in service. Priority sections of track are under construction: tracks from Treviglio to Brescia were opened in 2016.[10]

Ports and Trans European Connections[edit]

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[edit]

  • Milan-Venice: although the projects were approved in 2003 and 2006 respectively, construction on the Verona-Padua lines has not yet started. Construction on the Milan-Verona lines started in 2011.[11] The Milan–Treviglio and Padua-Mestre lines will become part of the Milan-Venice line.
  • Milan-Genoa: the project was approved in 2006; construction work started in 2011.[12]
  • Lyon-Turin: the Lyon-Turin line should connect Lyon, Chambéry, and Turin, and join the French TGV and Italian TAV networks. It would take over the role of the current Fréjus railway.
  • Milan-Chiasso: a route connecting the Italian high-speed rail network to Switzerland and Germany is conceived through a Swiss project AlpTransit, which includes the Gotthard Base Tunnel and the Lötschberg Base Tunnel.
  • Brenner Base Tunnel: the Brenner Base Tunnel will link Verona, Innsbruck, and Munich, and thus connect the Italian, Austrian and German railways. The Brenner tunnel is the most important link in a series of projects that will create a single connection from Berlin in Germany to Palermo in Sicily as part of the Trans-European Transport Networks. In December 2008, Antonio Tajani, the European commissioner for transport, approved funds totalling €1.7 billion to finance 11 railway projects that together should establish two major north-south routes across the European continent.
  • Trieste-Slovenian border-Ljubljana: a connection with Ljubljana would encourage rail development into Eastern Europe and link the Slovenian Pendolino and Italian TAV networks.[according to whom?]
  • Naples-Bari: the construction has begun[13] and the route will cut Rome-Bari journeys from 3h59m to 3h00m.[14]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • 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,

External links[edit]