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Review of major projects out soon, position maintained on High-Speed rail

Rome - Italy’s new government is nearing a decision regarding which major projects will get a green light and which will be shelved. The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Danilo Toninelli, has in fact said he aims to “review as soon as possible” the different dossiers left on the table by the previous Government

Rome - Italy’s new government is nearing a decision regarding which major projects will get a green light and which will be shelved. The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Danilo Toninelli, has in fact said he aims to “review as soon as possible” the different dossiers left on the table by the previous Government.

In particular, on the hot topic of the Turin-Lyon High-Speed rail the position is tied to agreements between the governing coalition partners, the M5S and the Lega.

These include a commitment to re-assess the project, a stance which has been met with a firm rebuttal by the Piedmont Region’s president, Sergio Chiamparino. A decision is also expected shortly on the Alitalia dossier, for which today a final go-ahead from the Chamber was issued, regarding a decree for extending the deadline for its sale and for the repayment of a bridge loan.

The crucial test for any decision that the new minister may take on any major project is whether it will benefit Italy’s citizens: “those that are necessary and are sound” will be carried out, starting from those already in progress - he explained during the Chamber’s question time - while those that do not benefit the people will be reviewed and a decision be taken at a later time.

In particular on the High-Speed rail project he confirmed the commitment to “thoroughly re-discuss” the project, taking into account that the expected increase in freight traffic that was the basis for the work has not materialized, said Toninelli. His comments immediately received “the strongest possible support” from the deputy minister to the economy, Laura Castelli, (who in the past was against the rail project), but were met with the firm opposition of the Governor of Piedmont, Sergio Chiamparino, (for whom the low freight volumes were due “both to the fact that, increasingly, only marginal train convoys pass through the current tunnel, and with significant safety issues”.)He was joined by government commissioner Paolo Foietta, who referred to Toninelli’s views as “fake news”.

The government also confirmed its position on the Terzo Valico dei Giovi bypass, for which “further cost-benefit assessments” are needed. Finally, for the works planned in Tuscany (High-Speed railway junction and the improvement of Florence’s rail station) Toninelli wants a further in-depth study, given the uncertainty regarding the impact these may have.

On the array of projects before him, however, the minister assured that “we’re checking them from all angles as we speak, and in the coming weeks we’ll be able to give our initial responses.” Meanwhile, on another sensitive issue, that of the sale of Alitalia, a decision from the government is expected soon. “It is one of the most important dossiers, one that we’re evaluating together with all the stakeholders, and we will soon make a deliberation,” said Toninelli.

The House approved (with 512 votes in favour, no votes against, while the right wing FDI party abstained) the extension to October 31 of the airline’s sale, and to December 15 the deadline for reimbursement of its 900 million bridge loan. On whether Italy’s state should form part of the Alitalia’s future shareholding structure, the under-secretary for development, Davide Crippa, explained that it’s “on the government’s radar”, but he asked to refrain from including on the agenda a request by Stefano Fassina (Leu) for a clear commitment on part of Italy’s government to promote the involvement of the State in the capital of the company, with a clearly-defined share (equal to 25%).

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