CONSTRUCTION of the planned Lyon - Torino high speed line and its 52 km Alpine base tunnel moved a step closer on May 5, when France and Italy signed a memorandum of understanding on financing the €12·5bn project.

The event was held to coincide with a visit to Paris by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The overall cost is to be shared 50:50, although the Italians will fund 63% of the €6bn base tunnel. The two countries will each provide €5bn towards the scheme, of which around 40% is to be raised from the private sector. Another €2·6bn is expected to come from the European Union.

Test boring for the base tunnel is already in progress, but the two governments do not anticipate that formal construction of the link will get underway until 2006. Opening of the route is currently projected for 2015-18.

  • On May 12 French Transport Minister Gilles de Robien told the Assemblée Nationale that the new Transport Infrastructure Funding Agency announced last December would be operational by the end of this year. This will be responsible for funding the French share of the Lyon - Torino project and other priority projects in the national infrastructure plan (RG 2.04 p81).