Italian coalition feud could block French train link
An Italian party dispute over the EU-funded rail-project linking Turin to Lyon in southern France has threatened to bring down the coalition government. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has now halted the launch of the Italian bidding process.
The link is expected to halve the travel time between Turin and Lyon to two hours.
The two parties in Italy’s populist coalition disagree over building the rail-link with a 58km tunnel through the Alps.
Luigi Di Maio, the youthful Five-Star leader, said no Italian funding should be involved in the project, calling for a renegotiation with France and the commission. “Now we need to work, the technicians must study everything and if we reach an agreement between us we will find the technical solutions,” Di Maio told the media.
Costs were initially projected to hit €8.6 billion but Italian Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli of Five Star said the price tag would be over €20 billion.
Conte has halted the launch of bidding for Italy’s share in the €20 billion TAV (Treno Alta Velocita).
The prime minister posted on Facebook that he had asked the TELT company overseeing the project to stop the process as the administration was still “totally rediscussing” the tunnel.
But Conte said agreements could not be finalised without ministerial approval.
The tunnel would make it possible to travel between Paris and Milan in around four hours, down from almost seven.
TELT said it would call for expressions of interest from potential contractors for the French part of the link this week, launching the bidding process, in order to avoid losing EU funding but would not define contracts without the consent of the Italian and French governments.
The rail project is backed by Matteo Salvini’s anti-migrant Lega but opposed by the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement which says the funding should be spent upgrading existing roads and bridges.
The project had secured EU funding for 40 per cent of the €20 billion costs with Italy responsible for 35 per cent and France 25 per cent.
The project was launched 20 years ago and part of the tunnel has already been dug. The link is scheduled for completion in 2025.
Last week French Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne said the European Commission would boost its share to 50 per cent with France and Italy both paying 25 per cent.
“We will find a solution … with our Five-Star friends,” Salvini said. “There will be no government crisis.”
Turin citizens could reach Lyon in around two hours. Picture credit: Flickr