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Italy, France confirm Turin-Lyon rail link

Work will be completed 'on schedule' ministers say

03 December, 13:49
Italy, France confirm Turin-Lyon rail link (ANSA) - Lyon, December 3 - Italy and France on Monday signed a joint statement confirming that a contested high-speed rail link between Turin and Lyon will be completed on schedule.

Final work on the line is scheduled to start in 2014 and take about seven years.

Italian Industry Minister Corrado Passera and French Trasport Minister Frederic Cuviller signed the statement at a Franco-Italian summit in Lyon.

At Rome talks with French President Francois Hollande in September, Italian Premier Mario Monti described the project as "fundamental" while Hollande confirmed his government's commitment to complete the line.

Construction of the so-called TAV line has sparked staunch opposition since it requires digging a tunnel in the Valle di Susa valley near Turin.

Naysayers argue that the line will create pollution and harm the area's natural beauty and maintain that the money would be better spent on improving public transport locally.

Supporters of the project, including most Italian political parties and the European Commission, say the link will actually reduce pollution by minimizing freight traffic on the road.

The movement against the tunnel has seen numerous episodes of violence over the last several years and included arrests as opposition has grown increasingly hostile.

The line did not meet much opposition on the French side until recently, when protests burgeoned over the link's cost, impact and utility.

The Italian government has repeatedly reiterated that the project is necessary and must go ahead.

In July Paris daily Le Figaro reported that the French government was considering reviewing and possibly scrapping 10 high-speed railway lines, including the Turin-Lyon link, due to high costs and a drop in freight traffic as a result of the recession.

France subsequently confirmed its commitment to the project but said a new funding agreement was required.

The high-speed train would cut by half - just four hours - the time it takes to travel between Paris and Milan.