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After 20-year battle, protests over Italian high-speed train derail

Farmers lost the battle against a high-speed train they see as serving the economic interests of the Italian elite and causing harm to the environment.

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An artist's rendition courtesy of the California High-Speed Rail Authority shows a high speed train in a station in the Bay Area in California.

California High-Speed Rail Authority/Reuters

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Luca Abba, a farmer from Val di Susa, a valley that connects Italy to France, was electrocuted last February while climbing a high voltage pylon during protests against the construction of a new High Speed Railway Line (TAV) between Italy and France in a desperate attempt to resist expropriation.

He survived, though severe health problems persist. But the tragic incident was evidence of the tensions that have been rising for almost two decades between the valley’s local communities and the central government, culminating in violent clashes between protestors and contractors since construction finally began last summer. The project has become emblematic of a public works culture that is driven far more by politics than local need: the current rail connection is underused and environmental problems could arise.

In 1991, the Italian National Railway Co. first proposed construction of a high-speed rail line between Turin and Lyon, alongside the existing connection. It gave the green light to the project in 2001, despite reports of declining traffic of both people and goods between the two cities since 1997. Local inhabitants strongly oppose the megaproject, claiming environmental and economic reasons should prevent officials from continuing. Protests have been ongoing.

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