Conte 'has not yet assessed' high-speed train link project

Italy's premier Giuseppe Conte has not yet evaluated a controversial high-speed train link between Turin and the French city of Lyon, sources at the premier's office told Adnkronos on Friday.

Italy's transport minister Danilo Toninelli and his staff are currently preparing a cost-benefit analysis of the project for Conte and his cabinet, the sources said.

Conte, with support from the grassroots Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio, is poised to take steps to halt the high-speed rail project, known as TAV, several Italian newspapers reported on Friday.

The 270-kilometre link will connect Turin and Lyon via a 60-kilometre tunnel below the Alps, at an estimated cost of 26 billion euros.

In signs of a rift between the two populist parties running Italy, Five Star's rightwing League coalition partner backs the costly rail plan, which for years has been the target of protests by environmental campaigners.

"We need the rail link," League leader, interior minister and deputy premier Matteo Salvini said in an interview with Radio24 on Friday.

Salvini vowed he would not allow Italians to pay "billions of euros" if the project is cancelled.

The cost of pulling out of the TAV is estimated at more than 2 billion euros, according to an independent study presented to the Italian cabinet in May.

Italy has already spent 400 million euros on preparatory work for the project and could incur hefty penalties from France and the European Union if it pulls the plug on the project.

Construction of the high-speed link is due to start this year and to take around a decade.