Italian police, protesters clash over high-speed link

27th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Police clashed Monday with demonstrators protesting against a planned high-speed rail line running through a scenic valley in northern Italy, an official said.

The clashes occurred as construction workers prepared to begin work on boring a tunnel for the line in the Susa Valley near Turin.

Around 2,000 demonstrators took part in the torchlit procession through the valley on Sunday night.

"A group of opponents began attacking the police in a pretty violent way around 7:00 am, and the police responded by charging them," said Mario Virano, the government official in charge of construction of the Lyon-Turin train line.

He described the situation on the ground as "difficult".

Opponents of the line had already placed obstacles on the roads leading to the site and set up several camps with the aim of blocking work on the project, said Virano.

Work has to start before the end of June if the project is to benefit from a tranche of European subventions for the rail link.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni pledged Sunday that work on the project would go ahead "before June 30".

"The project will happen. If that wasn't the case, we would be saying goodbye to hundreds of millions in European subventions, but particularly to connections with Europe, and also we would be saying goodbye to the future," he warned.

France and Italy signed a deal in 2001 on building a high-speed line to slash travel time between Milan and Paris from seven hours to four, and form a strategic link in the European network.

The cost has been estimated at 15 billion euros (21 billion dollars). But residents of the Susa Valley have fiercely opposed the plan, saying the construction of tunnels would damage the environment.

© 2011 AFP

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