Luca Cordero di Montezemolo always seems to be heading somewhere else in a hurry. Now the chairman of Ferrari and Fiat, and one of Europe's most recognisable industrialists, will soon be catching his own trains to the next meeting - part of what could be Europe's first wholly private, high-speed train service.
Mr Montezemolo and partners are set to announce formally the service, called NTV, in the next few weeks. Alstom, Siemens and Bombardier are on a shortlist to build the trains, which have been made possible by liberalisation legislation and are scheduled to start running towards the end of 2010.
The trains will be the next chapter in the varied career of Mr Montezemolo, once named by a Japanese magazine the world's most elegant man. He has close ties to the Agnellis, the founders of Fiat, and is chairman of Confindustria, the main Italian employers' body, until May next year.
He has portrayed his activities as being at the service of the public and, like Sir Richard Branson in the UK, another populist businessman, he now seems determined to make his country's trains work better.
Mr Montezemolo's partners include Diego Della Valle, the founder of fashion company Tod's, industrialist Gianni Punzo and Giuseppe Sciarrone, former head of passenger services with the state-owned Trenitalia operator. Mr Sciarrone has since 2000 been the chief executive of Rail Traction Company, Italy's successful private rail freight operator.
Another private passenger service, Rail One, is also being put together for 2010 by Carlo Toto, the man behind Air One, the Italian airline bidding to acquire Alitalia.
The two Italian companies will be Europe's first wholly private operators of high-speed trains - the UK arm of the cross-Channel Eurostar service linking Paris and Brussels with London has private shareholders but the operation is still dominated by France's state-owned train operator, SNCF.
The new entrants will be taking advantage of domestic Italian legislation which is opening up the country's dedicated high-speed routes between the largest cities to competitors to Trenitalia, the monopoly operator of nearly all of the country's passenger services.
The competition could be disastrous news for Trenitalia, which has complained loudly since the legislation was proposed that it threatens the most profitable parts of its business.
The liberalisation of the sector has the backing of the government of Romano Prodi, which has lately been talking about the need to open up the market. ( FT )