February 2, 2019 / 7:27 PM / 3 months ago

Italy's Di Maio says high speed rail link to France "has no future"

MILAN, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Italy’s high-speed rail link with France “has no future”, Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Saturday, despite his fellow deputy premier in the coalition government saying the line would be completed.

The projected 270 km (167 mile) line, which is estimated to cost some 26 billion euros ($30 billion) and will be partly paid for with French and European Union funds, has split the coalition government in Rome.

Luigi Di Maio, leader of the 5-Star Movement, one of the two ruling parties, said in a video on the Corriere.it website that “as long as the 5-Star Movement is in government, as far as I am concerned, the Turin/Lyon high speed train has no future”.

He added that the project was supported by the country’s “worst lobbies”.

Italy is expected to decide by the end of May whether to complete the project, Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli told Reuters.

Toninelli has asked a commission to carry out a cost-benefit analysis, with another group of lawyers examining the legal implications for Italy in case of it withdrawing from the project.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said later on Saturday that the government’s program envisaged a “revision” of the project.

“We need to need to proceed with a cost-benefit analysis which will cover all technical, economic and social aspects and wait for it to be concluded to take a decision” Conte said in a note.

The League - the other party in the coalition government - backs the project.

League leader and fellow deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini said earlier on Saturday that he was confident the project would be completed, adding that its costs might be reduced by 1 billion euros.

“I hope work can be restarted as soon as possible” he said in an interview with daily newspaper La Stampa. ($1 = 0.8731 euros) (Reporting by Giulio Piovaccari; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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