Austria-Italy rail tunnel project in doubt: report
A major Austrian-Italian tunnel project was thrown into doubt Friday, after an Austrian finance minister was quoted in local media saying his country would not commit funds until Italy and Germany pledged their financing, dpa reported.
The rail tunnel beneath the Brenner mountain pass on the Austrian-Italian border is planned to improve the connection on the important route between Italy and Germany through the Austrian Alps.
State secretary for finance Reinhold Lopatka was cited by Austrian press agency APA as saying that the tunnel would only be built if the other countries would cooperate.
The European Union has threatened to withdraw its funding of 900 million euros (1.2 billion dollars) for the 8 billion euro project if Austria and Italy cannot agree on the financing.
German Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee has ordered an evaluation of the need for the project, according to APA.
Lopatka's office later toned down the state secretary's statement, saying in a press release that Austria's government was aiming to "secure necessary financing together with the project partners and the EU."
The Austrian cabinet is set to discuss how to proceed on the issue next week.
Construction of the tunnel should originally have started in 2007. Anticipated completion has already been postponed from 2015 to 2018.