Ferrari's heritage evident in the Italo high-speed train
By Jan Belezina
April 26, 2012
Nuovo Transporto Viaggiatori (NTV), a company founded by a group of entrepreneurs headed by the president of Ferrari, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, has unleashed twenty five luxury high-speed trains on the Italian railways. This makes NTV the first private high-speed rail network carrier in the country and the first company in the world to use the next-generation Alstom AGV trains. Although called “Italo”, the “Ferrari train” label seems to describe the racing red beasts somewhat more accurately. The thrill of traveling at high speeds in a Ferrari is soon to be available to anyone who can afford a train ticket!
The Italo is basically an Alstom AGV train with a Ferrari soul, as the internal layout and furnishings have been fully customized for NTV. The trains contain some very cutting edge railway technology. Most importantly, the locomotion system is distributed all along the vehicle, rather than being concentrated in the front and rear locomotives. The task of providing the motive power is now vested in the bogies (wheeled undercarriages) which house permanent magnet synchronous motors. This solution allows for a 20% increase in onboard capacity (i.e. more space is left for the passengers), while also setting a high power to weight ratio of 22.6 kW per ton.
That, of course, would not be possible without a well thought out design and some serious weight watching. First, there are less bogies than in a traditional design, which means less turbulence and lower air resistance (not to mention lower maintenance costs, as bogies normally account for up to 40 percent of the total maintenance expenditure). Second, the aerodynamically optimized design of the nose and the locomotive’s bogie fairings contribute to the overall drag reduction of 15 percent. Due to the use of extremely lightweight, composite materials, the whole train is touted to be 70 tons lighter than the competitors’ offerings. All in all, higher speeds can be achieved at lower power consumption rates. The energy consumption per seat is said to be around 30 percent lower than in TGV trains.
The additional interior space delivered by the design results in 2.75m (9.02 feet) wide cars that can be navigated easily even with bulky luggage. The floor is 10 centimeters lower than in older trains, which makes for increased accessibility. Also, the window surfaces are now 15 percent larger, which means sunnier, roomier interiors.
The trains are well equipped to entice airline-goers to travel via rail instead. From tunnel-proof wireless internet, personal media centers and power supplies to entertainment cars offering immersive cinematic experiences. Even the economy class looks pretty impressive, with a comfortable leather seat on the route from the capital to Milan costing around €45 (US$60).
Perhaps the most important advancement in terms of passenger comfort, though, is the reduction of noise and vibrations. At 360 km/h (223 mph) the level of acoustic comfort is said to be comparable to that experienced at 300 km/h (186 mph) in other trains. Additionally, the body of the train is lined with material unaffected by pressure waves in order to reduce the air pressure on eardrums that can be felt when passing through tunnels.
Last, but not least, there is the matter of safety. The conspicuous long nose of the locomotive is there not only for aerodynamics’ sake. It shelters crash modules and energy absorbers that total nearly 20 feet (6 m) in length and, in case of a frontal collision, allow the train to absorb a shock of 4.5 megajoules without compromising the driver’s cabin.
Another reason to feel safe onboard the Italo train is that, should it derail, the cars won’t fold up like a harmonica, the way they would in a regular train. That’s because the bogies serve as joints between cars, which lends the whole vehicle additional rigidity, and also ensures extra protection against side winds.
Starting April 28, the first batch of trains is going to whizz along the Naples-Rome-Florence-Bologna-Milan route. Services are to be extended to Salerno, Turin, and Venice towards the end of the year, when 25 Italo trains are expected to operate.
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