ITALY: Just days after the private-sector NTV consortium unveiled its plans to compete with Trenitalia in the domestic high speed market from 2011, potential partners started beating a path to its door.

According to Chief Executive Guiseppe Sciarrone, NTV recognises that it does not have practical experience of 300 km/h operation, and some form of partnership might be beneficial. But he insists that no agreement has been reached, and any partner would only have a minority shareholding.

Amongst the first suitors on the scene is reported to be Deutsche Bahn, which has made no secret of its desire to expand its international passenger activities as soon as its partial flotation has been completed. Another candidate is SNCF, which has been emphasising its long track record in high speed operation when courting other potential partners such as Air France KLM.

Sciarrone believes the lucrative Torino – Milano – Roma corridor might support three competiting operators in the longer term, with another rival emerging to challenge both NTV and Trenitalia. So signing up with one of Europe’s more experienced high speed operators could be a very pragmatic move.