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Italy and France sign off on high-speed rail link

Construction on Lyon-Turin line to begin in 2014

03 December, 17:49
Italy and France sign off on high-speed rail link (ANSA) - Lyon, December 3 - Italy and France will begin building the controversial high-speed rail link between Lyon and Turin in 2014, according to a joint statement from French President Franois Hollande and Italian Premier Mario Monti Monday.

According to a statement, issued during a summit meeting between the two leaders, construction of the high-speed rail, which has led to violent protests in Italy, is to proceed "according to the expected schedule".

The new, multi-billion-euro rail line, is seen by the two countries as "strategic" and a piece of "priority infrastructure" not just for France and Italy but for the entire European Union.

After their bilateral meeting, Monti said that the high-speed rail project, known in Italy as the TAV, is an important driver of economic growth.

The Italian premier said he and the French president were "both convinced" that discipline in government spending is necessary for growth, but that "at the same time it is not enough. "What is needed is concrete initiatives, like the one confirmed today, with a common political will, of the high-speed link between Turin and Lyon," Monti added.

While the leaders were meeting for their summit Monday, protesters - including 12 busloads from Italy - gathered in Lyon. A delegation of French protesters invited to attend a meeting with the summit's representatives refused the invitation after the buses from Italy were delayed at the Italian-French border while border police performed searches.

Consultations between Italian and French protesters were underway Monday afternoon. "We just arrived and are determining what needs to be done," one activist told ANSA.

No-TAV activists have organized a series of protests against the rail link throughout Italy over the last few years.

Some have included violent clashes with police and disruption of highway traffic.

Opponents of the project contest its high cost and impact on the environment.