France and Italy push ahead with $30 billion under-Alps rail link

LYON, France (Reuters) - France and Italy recommitted themselves to an ambitious rail link under the Alps on Wednesday, saying they would complete a multi-billion-euro line between Lyon and Turin, work on which stalled after President Emmanuel Macron took office.

At a summit between Macron and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni in Lyon, the leaders agreed the rail line was of “strategic importance”, being critical to both their bilateral cooperation and trans-European transport networks.

“The two states underline that preliminary work is all but completed and that the launch of the final construction phase, notably the digging of the main tunnel, is being prepared,” they said in a joint document prepared for the meeting.

The core of the 270 km (167 mile) high-speed line, linking France’s third largest city and Italy’s fourth, is a 57 km tunnel under the Alps.

In July, the French government signalled its intention to pause the project, whose cost is estimated at more than 25 billion euros ($29.37 billion), pending a review of France’s overall infrastructure plans.

At the summit, Macron and Gentiloni also agreed that Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri will take a 51 percent stake in French shipyard STX, ending a months long dispute after Macron temporarily nationalised STX to block Fincantieri’s approach.

Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey, Gwenaelle Barzic, Giselda Vagnoni; Writing by Matthias Blamont; Editing by Luke Baker