Troubled France-Italy high speed railway hits further major delay

Troubled France-Italy high speed railway hits further major delay

The troubled high-speed rail project between France and Italy has hit another delay - the Italian Prime Minister has put construction tenders for the scheme on hold.

Giuseppe Conte's move came after the multibillion-Euro Treno Alta Velocità (TAV) was criticised by the coalition government's biggest party, the Five Star Movement.

Their government partners, the League, still support it.

The TAV is a joint venture between Italy and France aiming to link Turin and Lyon via a 58km (36-mile) tunnel through the Alps.

It is expected to halve the travel time between the two cities to just two hours. The tunnel would also make it possible to travel from Paris to Milan in around four hours, down from nearly seven.

Costs were initially projected to hit €8.6bn ($9.7bn; £7.4bn), but Italy's Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli — a Five Star member — has put the price tag at over €20 billion.

The EU first pledged to fund up to 40% of the cost, Italy up to 35% and France up to 25%.

But on Friday, France's Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne said the European Commission offered to increase its share to 50%, leaving France and Italy to cover 25% each.

The rail line has been a continual source of contention within Italian politics.

Supporters argue that it would take millions of cars and lorries off the road and drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions in the region.

But opponents say costs will be too high and the money would be better spent on upgrading existing roads and bridges.

An Italian government report last month concluded that the tunnel would be "very negatively profitable" and lose €7bn by 2059. But the methodology of its findings has been criticised.