France and Italy have finally achieved a political consensus to proceed with work on a future rail link between Lyon and Turin. The roughly 20 billion euro project is aimed at moving growing freight traffic and passengers through the southern Alps faster.
At a summit a few days ago, both countries’ leaders gave preliminary work their backing. They said they were concerned about projections that show approaching saturation of the current infrastructure threatening economic growth. It has taken several years to overcome resistance from communities on the Italian side of the mountain range, but Mario Virano, Italy’s special Commissioner for the rail link, said he felt better about it now: “If one compares the concrete way we’re working to define the preliminary project for the Turin-Lyon line from the French border to the link with the Turin-Milan line, with the active consensus of most of the local administrations, compared with the social conflict of December 2005, I believe we can be objectively reassured.” When the Italian authorities first announced the project, they had not got local support, as the French did. The bulk of the work is now probably slated for 2022-2023. Transalpine Committee delegate Jean-Pierre Lacroix described how the process has evolved: “I followed the very considerable work undertaken by Commissioner Mirano with close attention, and what he explained today was extremely clear. I think he has developed a great power of conviction that respects all the parties involved. I believe we will succeed with the project within a reasonable time frame.” Although engineers on the French side have completed more than six kilometers of access tunnels on their side, further plans for the 280 kilometer link will only be open for international public tender in March. The main portion of the future Lyon-Turin rail link will be a 52 km long tunnel that pierces the border.