Italy's right takes Piedmont in boon for high-speed rail link

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Rome (AFP)

Italy's right-wing coalition has taken the wealthy Piedmont region from the left, definitive election results showed Tuesday, increasing the chances a controversial high-speed rail link will go ahead.

Matteo Salvini's anti-immigration League, the small far-right Brothers of Italy party, and Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia won nearly 50 percent of votes in the northwest region, compared to 36 percent taken by a left-wing coalition.

The anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), which is governing Italy with the League party, did particularly badly, pocketing just over 13 percent.

The right now holds all the main regions in the country's rich north, from Liguria to Lombardy, Piedmont and the Veneto.

The M5S had been campaigning actively to stop construction of the disputed Turin-Lyon high-speed rail project, holding protests in Piedmont against a project it deems bad for the environment and a waste of public money.

The 8.6-billion euro ($9.8-billion) tunnel through the Alps, which has already been partially dug, would reduce travel time between Milan and Paris from almost seven hours to just over four.

Proponents of the line, launched nearly 20 years ago and officially scheduled to be finished in 2025, argue that it would rid the roads of a million trucks and avert some three million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

The right-wing coalition which has seized Piedmont had voted in favour of the project.

Weakened by a poor performance at the European elections, M5S head Luigi Di Maio appeared to soften his stance on the rail link on Monday, saying the dossier was now in the hands of the prime minister.

Preliminary tenders to pursue work on the Franco-Italian project have been launched, but Rome and Paris had six months from March to take another look at the project before making a definitive commitment.