[en] The No-TAV Struggle in the Susa Valley

Background

TAV is the italian acronym for Treno ad Alta Velocità i.e. HSR, High-Speed Rail. This is a railway that allows a sustained speed higher than 200 km/h (124 mph) and its peak speed is around 300 km/h. Even though for the most recent project of the Turin-Lyon it would be more appropriate to call it TAC (Treno ad Alta Capacità, High-Capacity Train), since it’s intended mainly for transport of goods, the misleading name of TAV remains.
In 1991 a new high-speed railway between Turin and Lyon was planned to be added to the current line across the Alps in the context of the creation of a European HSR network. The Turin-Lyon TAV is part of EU project TEN (Trans-European Network), particularly of the PP6 axis, from Lyon to the Ukrainian border. TEN project doesn’t require the railway to be of high-speed type, but the Italian and French governments agreed to build the Turin-Lyon as part of such technology.Works were supposed to start during the second half of the Nineties, but as of 2011 just a few side structures located in France have been finished. Today’s expectation is that it can’t be completed within 2030.
The project consists of two twin tunnels, each of them 56-km (35-mile) long and 6-m (20-foot) wide, reaching 2,000 meters of depth underground, plus many other satellite tunnels – each longer than 10 kilometers – one of which is planned to run under Turin. Some connection open-air stretches are also part of the plan. Exactly in this same area there is the Susa Valley – 2 km at its widest – which French TGVs already run across simply by reducing their speed.
The estimated cost of the line is 13 billion euros but on the basis of already completed TAV trunks, the final cost is expected to be about 4 times higher than planned.

Maps:Italy-Susa valley 2011, TAV Europe

The Struggle

Several local committees, approximately one for each town, sustain and organize the struggle. The committees involve common citizens and a few local branches of national environmentalist associations. Some left-wing political parties and trade unions (amongst which FIOM, CUB and COBAS) sympathize with the struggle, although they are not formally involved in it.
The first opposition dates back to 1992 with a committee called Habitat. The first project was expected to pull down houses in Condove and Caprie, two little towns (pop. 3,000) in the valley. The first committee included some experts of transport systems and acquired technical data that were to become decisive for the future of the struggle.
The struggle grew slowly during the first years, but it reached the mainstream media at the beginning of the new century, when the number of people involved in demonstrations hit 10,000.
In October 2005, protesters stopped for one day the installation of three detection points in Mompantero, despite a huge police intervention. In the following two months the zone of detection points was military occupied by police forces, with three checkpoints. Some people had to show their documents each time they move to/from their house.
On the 30th of November, 2005 the acquisition of pieces of land for an auxiliary tunnel in Venaus (near Mompantero) was stopped by more than 2,000 people, giving the start to what is called ’The free repubblic of Venaus) link al post. This experience forced the government to open a new discussion about the line, which led to a new project, slightly better than the old line but actually not so different.
In May 2011 the government announced they were going to open the construction site of the new line in Chiomonte, but the No-TAV movement stopped the first attempt and kept guarding the zone for about one month, until June 27th, when over 1,000 policemen sent them away using CS gas weapons (use of which is prohibited under the terms of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, signed by most nations, including Italy, in 1993). On July 3rd another big demonstration link al post (about 40,000 people) tried to repeat what they did in 2005 but this time the reaction of police forces was stronger and they didn’t succeed.
At the end of Summer 2011, police and military forces were still guarding the area but the work hadn’t started yet, and protest continued in various ways, from nightly cacerolazo to peaceful invasions of the restricted zone. When the protest got near the fences most of the times police used CS gas to drive back protesters.
On September 2011 two women have been arrested with accusation of aggression to a public officer and held in prison awaiting for the trial.

The reasons of the NoTAV (syntetically)

Unusefulness of the TAV:
- The pro-TAV says that without the new line Turin-Lyon, the Italy will be isolated from the rest of the Europe. Actually in Susa Valley already exists maby connections Italy-France, that is: highway of the Frejus (A32) , railway of the Frejus (Turin-Modane), and two international roads.
- The promoters have alway been speaking about an increasing trafic on the line, but the real data about last 20 years show a substantial stagnation, whith a little decrease after 2008, both of passengers and goods.
- The railway of the Frejus in it’s Alpine part is used less than half of it’s capacity.

Unsustainable damages:
- According to preliminar project of 2010 the expense will be of 14000 millions od euros only for the part in italian territory (much more according to indipendent calculations). To find enough money italy nedds to contract new debts with banks, but Italin public debt is already over 130% of PIL, and one of the highest in Europe, this debt is the reason for wich italian government in the last months is cutting most public services.
- None of the evaluations says that the takings of the new railway can suffice to pay the expenses .

Nagative environmental impact:
- The work for the construction of the line will last for more than 20 years, during wich hundreds of trucks will cross the valley bringing excavation material, with great emission of CO2 and thin dusts
- The work for the galleries are likely to affect the water-bearing stratum, this already happend inTuscany, where 7 villages got their aqueducts dry due to TAV works.
- There are many proofs that the mountains under wich the main tunnel must be excavated contains uranium and asbestos, and the reassurances of the pro-TAV about security techniques to be used are vague and contradictory.

Reources

[en] high speed transport in Italy
[en-it] Video en.arcoiris.tv
[en] Article italycalling.wordpress.com
[en-it-fr-es-de] Website www.notavtorino.org
[it] Website www.notav.eu
[it] Website www.notav.info
[it] Website www.ambientevalsusa.it