European engineers are no strangers to designing creative routes to circumvent picturesque, yet daunting environmental obstacles – whole bodies of water, vast chasms and the Alps. What makes this project different is the 35-mile high-speed train line proposed to link Lyon, France to the Northern Italy city of Turin, will tunnel directly under the majestic mountain range.
Though the plan has been brewing for 20 years, encountering poignant criticism and protest from locals, recent developments show the Treno Alta Velocità (TAV) is moving forward with needed steps to begin construction on the project, The Guardian reports.
In addition to damaging the fragile and distinctive ecosystems in the Susa Valley, environmental activists and protestors have voiced concern that the broken rocks could release dangerous levels of uranium and asbestos into the air, with dire consequences on the health of local residents.
A Train Journey from Milan, Italy to London via Germany
A stretch of grasslands outside Turin is slated for excavation in the near future, allowing geologists to test conditions. Protests over the project have reached a worrisome degree of fervor in the past. Four hundred people were injured in clashes with police after the proposed site was fenced off last summer.
Despite concerns, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti believes the action is vital to improving the area’s economy and is providing strong backing for the project. Europe’s high-speed rail network has a history of effectively reducing carbon emissions from vehicles, both for travelers reducing the number of vehicles on the road, and in shipped freight. Proponents insist the route would reduce 700,000 tons of toxic substances per year from being released into the atmosphere.
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Still, the argument remains unconvincing to many. “All the data shows that it’s sheer madness to build this line, it’s simply not necessary because the existing railway works perfectly fine. The number of passengers and the quantity of goods being carried on it is falling,” a participant in the protests, Doriana Tassotti, told the BBC,
Calling their outcry the NO TAV movement, many activists continue to be arrested in the area. Currently no word on what types of conditions, if any, would stall construction have been released.