Thousands rally against Italy-France high speed train link

©Agence France-Presse

The cost of the tunnel is estimated at $8.6 billion

Turin (Italy) (AFP) - Tens of thousands rallied Saturday in Turin to protest against a high speed train project to the French city of Lyon, fiercely opposed by environmentalists, as a waste of public funds.

The scheme involves construction of a 57.5 kilometre (35.7 mile) tunnel across the French and Italian Alps to cut travel time to two hours from the current four hours. 

The cost is estimated at $8.6 billion (7.5 billion euros) with the bill split 40 percent, 35 percent and 25 percent between the European Union, Italy and France.

The organisers claimed "a sea of some 70,000 people" had attended the rally but police did not give any estimate of numbers.

The demonstrators held placards saying "No TAV", or "No high speed train", "We are against waste" and "Yes to protecting the territory and the environment".

"There are more important things to invest in such as hospitals, schools and roads," said Maurizio Alfero, 60, adding that he had to wait until next September for a hospital appointment because it was vastly overstretched.

"It's sufficient to use the existing (train) line which is underused," he said.

On November 10, up to 40,000 people backing the project rallied in Turin. 

The Italian government itself is divided on the issue: the far-right League of Interior Minister Matteo Salvini backs the project but the Five Star Movement opposes it.