July 27, 2019 / 3:49 PM / 24 days ago

Italy pledges to complete rail link with France, EU official says

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy has written to the European Union pledging to complete a rail link with France, according to the European Parliament president David Sassoli.

The Italian commitment to the controversial project, which includes a 58-km (36-mile) tunnel through the Alps and is partly funded by the EU, was described as “good news” by Sassoli in a posting on Twitter on Saturday.

The completion of a high-speed rail link connecting the French city of Lyon with Turin, in northern Italy, has divided the Italian governing coalition.

The 5-Star Movement has long opposed the project, arguing that Italy should focus on upgrading the existing transport network.

Coalition partner, the League, favours completing the link, which is dubbed Treno Alta Velocità (TAV).

Earlier this week, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that blocking work on the rail link would cost Rome more than completing it, suggesting the works would be unblocked.

Italy had to make clear its stance on the project by the July 26 deadline set by the EU.

A large protest was held on Saturday against the project in Piedmont, where the main railway tunnel for the TAV is being excavated.

Police fired tear gas when a group of protesters tried to force security blocks and reach the entrance to the TAV construction site, ANSA newswire reported.

Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by Mike Harrison

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