Italy-France rail link protests pick up speed

16th November 2005, Comments 0 comments

BUSSOLENO, Italy, Nov 16 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through an Alpine valley here Wednesday to protest against the construction of a new high-speed rail link between Turin in Italy and Lyon in France.

BUSSOLENO, Italy, Nov 16 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through an Alpine valley here Wednesday to protest against the construction of a new high-speed rail link between Turin in Italy and Lyon in France.

Schools, shops and a large number of businesses were closed in support of the protest in the Susa valley, where residents from local villages claim the railway line will irreparably damage the environment and local communities.

Demonstrators were marching eight kilometres from the village of Bussoleno to Susa for a concert and protest rally.

The organisers claimed 100,000 protesters were participating in the march as the march snaked through the valley.

"There are 100,000 people from the valley here to say no to Lyon-Turin. And we can make a difference," said Lorendano Bellone, mayor of one of the valley's small communes, San Didero.

While valley communities are sharply opposed to the project, claiming the environmentally sensitive area already supports too many transport networks, the proposed rail link is being heavily backed by both governments, as well as the European Commission and the region of Piedmont.

"The valley is already choked with transport infrastructure, with a motorway, two national highways and a rail line," the head of the Susa Valley community association Antonio Ferrentino told AFP.

"No government can ignore it when an entire region protests. We want our say," he added.

Wednesday's protest is the biggest to date against the line, a key link in a planned network of high-speed railways across Europe, which will cost an estimated EUR 12.5bn.

The project, which officially began on the French side of the border last month, is expected to take 15 years to complete. Tunnels through the Alps must be bored before the main work on the high-speed line can begin.

While Wednesday's massive protest was peaceful, the Italian government has expressed concern that opposition to the link could become violent.

Rail and road links between Italy and France have been blocked in recent protests, and protesters scuffled with police when they tried to block preliminary drilling work on the project last month.

Italian police found a crude bomb on the line two weeks ago, and interior minister Giuseppe Pisanu said at the weekend that Susa Valley protesters had been infiltrated by anarchist groups.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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