The protocol, which is expected to come into force at the end of this year, sets foundations for procurement and includes provisions to minimise the risk of mafia infiltration in contracts for the construction of the cross-border section of the route.

Under the agreement, the European Union (EU) is expected to meet 40% of the total project cost, with the Italian government committing 34.74% and the French government 25.26%. The EU has already committed €813.3m towards the project through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), equivalent to 41.1% of the €1.9bn required for construction works before 2019.

The 140km line will have 87km of tunnels including a 57km twin-bore base tunnel between St Jean de Maurienne, France, and Chiomonte in Italy. The cross-border section extends for 18.1km on the Italian side, 12.5km of which will be in the base tunnel. Beyond the Italian portal, there will be a 3km link to the existing line at Bussoleno, including a 2.1km tunnel and a new station at Susa.

Implementation of the project is being managed by Euralpine Tunnel Lyon – Turin (TELT), a 50:50 joint venture between Italian State Railways (FS) and the French state. TELT says the ratification of the latest protocol by the French and Italian governments will enable it to begin tendering for construction contracts.

Preparatory works for the base tunnel are expected to begin in 2017, with major construction due to start the following year. The line is expected to open in 2028 or 2029, reducing Lyon – Turin journey times from 3h 30min to 1h 47min.