Italy has approved funding of €1.3bn to build the Messina bridge, set to be the world’s longest suspension bridge.

The 12,000ft-long rail-cum-road bridge will link the island of Sicily to the Italian mainland.

The bridge, to include four tracks for a high-speed railway line along with a highway, is expected to carry 200 trains daily and replace the slow ferry service between the island and mainland.

Construction is expected to begin at the end of 2009 and finish in 2017.

The total project is expected to cost nearly €6.5bn.

The approval comes after a revival of the project, funding for which was approved eight years ago, after it was scrapped in October 2006 by an Italian parliamentary vote.