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Italy's northern routes disrupted by Alpine tunnel closures

ROME (Reuters) - Italy is facing serious disruption to transport links with its northern neighbours due to the planned shutdown of the Mont Blanc tunnel for maintenance and the closure of other rail and road crossings under the Alps because of landslides.

The Mont Blanc tunnel between France and Italy, used by more than 1.7 million vehicles last year, is set to close on Sept. 4 for 15 weeks.

Alessandro Spada, the president of Italian regional business lobby Assolombarda, said his members were worried about the impact on trade from Italy's northern industrial heartland.

"We are concerned about the extent to which the vulnerability of the area, combined with the weakness of the infrastructure system, could affect the ability to guarantee excellent returns for our exports," he said.

Italian Transport Minister Matteo Salvini said he was in contact with French authorities to discuss the best way to organise the work.

Renovation work on a 1.2-kilometre section of the 11.6 km Mont Blanc tunnel is scheduled to resume again next year at a projected cost of about 50 million euros ($54 million), infrastructure operator Geie said.

The planned closure of the Mont Blanc tunnel follows the temporary shutdown on Monday of the Brenner and Frejus tunnels, linking Italy with Austria and France respectively, after thunderstorms caused landslides in the neighbouring countries.

The San Gottardo road tunnel between Italy and Switzerland was closed briefly on Monday due to heavy rainfall, but it reopened on Tuesday.

Rail traffic was restored via the Brenner line from 6 p.m. (1600 GMT) on Tuesday after work on the Austrian side to remove earth and stones, Italian rail network operator RFI said.

But the disruption to rail traffic between Italy and France via the Frejus tunnel looked set to take longer to resolve.

Rail network operator SNCF Reseau said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that work on repairing tracks cannot start until the mountainside has been stabilised. Rail traffic between Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne and Modane on the French side of the border would remain suspended until further notice.

Trains between France and Italy are still running via Nice or Switzerland. ($1 = 0.9252 euros)

(Reporting by Federica Urso, Alvise Armellini and Keith Weir; additional reporting by Ingrid Melander and Geert de Clercq in Paris; editing by Gavin Jones, Nick Zieminski and Grant McCool)