Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte has halted the tender process for the rail tunnel between Turin and Lyon in France following political clashes over the project.
Italy’s biggest ruling party, Five Star Movement, has criticised the scheme but it is backed by coalition partner, the League and the clash has resulted in the risk of a government shutdown.
The 58km long tunnel through the Alps would link the two cities and halve travel time to two hours and cut the travel time from Paris to Milan from seven hours to four.
Work on the scheme started 20 years ago and is currently slated for completion in 2025.
Initial costs for the scheme were €8.6bn (£7.4bn) but Five Star Movement have suggested that more than €20bn (£17.3bn) is more realistic. Up to 40% of the costs were expected to be met by EU funding with Italy paying for 35% and France the remaining 25% of the scheme but as Italy look set to pull the plug on the project, France’s transport minister Elisabeth Borne said that the EU would meet 50% of the costs with the remainder split equally between the two countries.
Project promoter Tunnel Euralpin Lyon Turin (Telt), which launched the pre-qualification process for the tunnelling work on the key Mont Ceris base tunnels in April last year, said that it was continuing with the work on the French side to avoid losing the EU funding.
Telt has said that the scheme involves construction of over 160km of tunnels, chamber and access shafts and the tunnelling work is worth an estimated €300M (£262M)
Telt also said that following the issues in Italy would be adding a clause in the tenders protecting it from financial penalties if plans for the tunnel are revoked.
Italy is now expected to hold further talks over the project with France and the EU.