Thousands protest against new high-speed trains in Europe

ROME — Thousands protested Saturday in a town near Italy’s border with France against a planned high-speed train line as activists in France exhorted European governments not to expand the network.

“There were at least 20,000 of us and there would have been many more had the police not slowed down traffic,” Alberto Perino, the head of the No Tav (No to high-speed trains), told Italian media of the protest at Susa, near Turin.

France and Italy signed a deal in 2001 on building a line there, which is to be a strategic link in the European network and allow travel time between Milan and Paris to be slashed from seven to four hours.

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.

In a separate protest, environmentalists from France and Spain held a similar demonstration against a planned high-speed line running through the Basque country.

They also launched the “Hendaye charter”, after the French border town where the protest was held, which urges European governments not to build more such lines as they are not in line with “sustainable development”.

The text, adopted by political movements from France, Spain and Italy, denounced these projects as “an ecological, socio-economic and human disaster”.

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