France and Italy yesterday took another step forward on a controversial 20-year-old plan to build a high-speed rail track linking their countries via a tunnel under the Alps.
In a move intended to underline the two governments’ commitment to the €26 billion scheme, transport ministers signed an accord on the financing of a 57km tunnel under the Alps that accounts for a third of the estimated total cost.
It is now 21 years since the idea of the rail link was launched at a Franco-Italian summit. It is scheduled to come on line in 2028 at the earliest.
Supporters claim it will take a million heavy lorries off the saturated roads between Italy and France, as transalpine freight switches to rail, cutting CO2 emissions by three million tonnes a year.
But critics argue it could become a white elephant subsidised by unjustifiable injections of national and European funds at a time when every other area of public spending is being tightened.
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