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Full steam ahead for contested France-Italy train line, says Salvini

A worker at the construction site of a tunnel for the high-speed train line, in Saint-Martin-la-Porte, southeastern France, 29 November 2018. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

A controversial high-speed train line between France and Italy should go ahead, Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has said, in comments that could put his far-right Northern League party at odds with its governing partner the Five Star Movement.

The Treno Alta Velocità (TAV) or high-speed line “must absolutely be built”, said Salvini, in comments during a programme for the Italian state broadcaster Rai. Salvini added that it would cost more to scrap the project than built it.

The interior minister said he was still waiting for the “damn” cost-benefit report, AFP reported citing quotes from the La Repubblica newspaper, despite previously stating that he would need to see the analysis before taking a position.

The Five Star Movement, Salvini’s coalition partner, is demanding that the high-speed line project running between Lyon and Turin be scrapped.

If completed the train-line would slash journey times between Paris and Milan from about seven hours to just over four. The project involves an eight-billion euro tunnel through the Alps, which has already been partially dug.

It is scheduled to be completed in 2025 and supporters of the project say it will take more than one million lorries off the roads, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by some three million tonnes each year

The Five Star Movement had vowed to block the line if it was elected, while the Northern League has long been a supporter.

Delays to the project have already put at risk millions of euros in European Union funding with the company building the line freezing all tenders earlier this month, according to Bloomberg. The EU has already given the green light to more than 800 million euros in funding.