ROME – Scores of protesters clashed with police during a visit Friday by Italy’s far-right deputy prime minister to the construction site of a high-speed railway link that would connect Italy and France.
The construction of a 270-kilometer-long (168-mile) high-speed rail link (TAV) that would connect Turin in northern Italy and Lyon in the south of France has drawn much opposition, and on Friday “No TAV” protesters in Chiomonte, Turin, called for the project to be shelved.
“Italy must travel further,” Salvini, who is the leader of the anti-immigration Northern League party and also the country’s interior minister, told the press after his visit to the construction site. “We need the construction to continue.”
He said if back-peddling on the development project would cost the same as pushing forward with it, then the decision was an easy one and pursuing the construction of the high-speed link was the better option.
It is not just locals who have expressed concern over the TAV project, there has also been resistance to the infrastructure project within the government, which remained divided over the issue.
The anti-establishment Five Star Movement, who govern in coalition with Salvini’s party, have never backed the TAV project and have instead put pressure on the government to scrap it.
“The M5S are right, when the project started it was probably overrated, but 25 kilometers have been carved out of the mountain, so I think it makes more sense to finish the project than to start filling holes,” Salvini said.
“The construction can and must be revised. It could cost less and there are excessive expenses that could be cut,” the deputy PM added. “We could save at least 1 billion euros that could be re-invested in the Turin subway or the funds could be allocated to the municipalities affected by the project.”
TAV has also divided communities affected by the development, with people organizing themselves into various action groups like the “No TAV” associations who, for decades, have campaigned against the project.
The “No TAV” groups have branded the plans useless and expensive, as well as a threat to the environment and health of Alpine communities who fear construction works could disturb tons of uranium and asbestos within the mountain.
On the other hand, supporters of the project believe the rail link would boost trade with Europe, reap enormous economic benefits, and would reduce the volume of trucks on roads resulting in fewer carbon emissions.
The TAV rail link would connect Italy with the Mediterranean Corridor, which runs through Europe from west to east with a 3,000 km-long high-speed railway service with the aim of bolstering trade and the competitiveness of Mediterranean states.
The project was first conceived in the 1990s, but by Dec. 2018 barely 25 km worth of length had been dug up, accounting for 15 percent of the entire project.