FRANCE AND Italy this week agreed to push ahead with plans to build a 52km rail tunnel under the Alps between Lyon and Turin.
An 'irrevocable' agreement to build the £4bn tunnel by 2015 has been signed.
Plans to develop the tunnel gained momentum following the fire in the Mont Blanc road tunnel in 1999 when a lorry fire triggered a blaze that killed over 40 people and destroyed 600m of the tunnel, which is still closed for repairs (NCE 1/8April 1999).
The Lyon-Turin tunnel will be designed to accommodate rolling stock that will carry lorries.
It is hoped that this will provide a bypass for the overloaded Mont Blanc and Frejus road tunnels.
The inter-governmental agreement will trigger the start of site investigation work this year, along with studies on safety and environmental factors.