Italy puts rail project with France on ice to defuse political crisis 

Italy puts rail project with France on ice to defuse political crisis 

 

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has put on hold the launch of official tenders for Italy’s share in a multi-billion rail link to France, in a last-minute bid to defuse a possible government crisis.

The two populist parties in Italy’s ruling coalition have been at odds for weeks over building the high-speed rail link, which includes a 58-kilometres tunnel through the Alps.

Conte said in a post on Facebook late Saturday he has asked TELT – the company overseeing the project — to stop the launch of the tenders, as his government was “totally re-discussing” the plan.

The Italian premier also stressed that tenders could not be finalised without explicit government approval. TELT responded it would call for expressions of interest from potential contractors for the French part of the link on Monday — effectively launching the tender process — in order to avoid losing European Union’s funding.

But it added it would not define the contracts without consent from the Italian and French governments. The project had secured EU funding for 40% of the €20 billion costs, with Italy responsible for 35% and France for 25%.

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

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