This is the biggest infrastructure project in Europe
The show must go on
As debates on the Turin-Lyon line’s viability, as well as its economic and environmental impact, continue in Italy and elsewhere across Europe, works on the excavation of the tunnel have not stopped.
As Stéphane Guggino, general representative of the Committee for the Transalpine Lyon-Turin, explains, a total of 25km of land has already been dug out. Of this, 8km forms part of the tunnel that will cross the Alps, while the rest will be used to create a set of galleries leading to it.
“The construction site continues to advance by about 15m-20m every day,” says Guggino, adding that what has already been built accounts for about 16% of the overall project and has cost around €1.5m.
“This is the biggest infrastructure project in Europe to date, probably the biggest railway tunnel in the world that is going to be built,” he continues. “The aim remains to start using the tunnel by 2030. In order to achieve that, however, there need to be no delays and we need to stop having all this political unrest.”
disputes in italy cause delays
The year 2030 may well be the aim, but in the past year, delays have become an almost daily occurrence and works have been carried out intermittently. This is primarily because while the project is mostly popular in France, its neighbours are divided by growing political frictions.
On one side of the spectrum, Di Maio’s populist party has long been lobbying against the project, saying funds could be better allocated to other initiatives.
Having sided with local Piedmont groups against digging through land at the foot of the Alps, they are pushing to stop the project. In March this year, PM Conte even temporarily put construction tenders for the tunnel on hold, although they were reopened shortly afterwards.
On the other side of the debate are Salvini and all the other major parties in Italy. Supporting the claims of other campaigner groups based in Turin, these parties are loud advocates of the tunnel, which they argue would bring environmental benefits as well as support faster and more efficient travel for passengers and freight between France, Italy, and the whole of Europe.
But according to Guggino, the situation is far less desperate than it seems.
“The Five Star Movement is the only party in Italy to be against the Turin-Lyon. All the other political parties of the country - from the left to the right-wing ones - are in favour,” he explains.
He says that support for the project is also coming from labour unions, employers’ organisations and about 70% of the Italian population, according to polls.
As a result, construction works may have slowed down, but they’re nothing more than a delay. “At the end of the day,” he says, “in order to stop the project altogether, there needs to be a parliamentary vote. But in parliament, the Five-Star Movement doesn't have the majority on this matter and it will not be able to approve this interruption.”
The government will have to give a final decision to the European Commission by September this year.
In order to stop the project, there needs to be a Parliamentary vote.