Direct grants and counter guarantees used for the first time to modernise 178km of railway in Italy.
An agreement has been announced by the Italian government and the European Investment Bank for a new financing system that will see the Palermo-Catania line, part of the wider European TEN-T network, modernised to reduce the environmental impact of transport, improve energy efficiency and increase safety.
This financial operation is the first of its kind in Italy in the infrastructure sector, combining direct financing to the government with support for credit institutions. It includes €800m in direct financing from the EIB to the Ministry of Economy and Finance and a €1.3bn counter guarantee in conjunction with Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane and InvestEU, in favour of financial intermediaries. This in turn will result in another €1.3bn in guarantees from other sources.
Once complete, the railway will allow for speeds of up to 200kmh and will form a full part of the Ten-T Scandinavia-Mediterranean Corridor, reducing travel times along the upgraded line by 60 minutes.
Italy’s deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, explained: “People expect concrete results and it is our duty not to disappoint them. We are committed to making up for lost time by speeding up works, providing efficient transport connections in Sicily. These connections will be particularly useful given that the government is determined to make the (decades-old) project to build a bridge between the island and Calabria a reality.”
EIB vice president Gelsomina Vigliotti said: “Since 1998, as the EU climate bank, the EIB has supported the development of the railway and high-speed system in Italy by providing more than €13bn, helping to improve transport links in the country and thus to promote social cohesion and the transition to more sustainable mobility.”
European commissioner for economy Paolo Gentiloni added: “The European Union continues to support major investments in Italy’s rail network. With today’s agreement, the European Investment Bank, supported by InvestEU, will complement the significant financing already committed through NextGenerationEU to upgrade the Palermo-Catania line. This project is of huge importance for the island. It will provide Sicilians with faster and greener transportation between their two major urban centres, spurring economic development and job creation. I am proud of the key role that Europe is playing in making it a reality.”