Tens of thousands of people protested on Saturday in Turin against the proposed rail link with Lyon, which according to them represents a "waste of public money" while Italy needs money for schools or the health system.
The organizers have reported a "tide" of 70,000 people, "the largest gathering" in the history of the movement. It was not possible to obtain an estimate of the police forces, which never provide them in Italy.
The show parade in a good-natured atmosphere, mixing retired people, young people and families with children and large flags "No Tav" ("No to LGV – high-speed line), with a train crossed by a red cross, flying in the wind.
"Against waste", "Yes to small useful infrastructures, no to unnecessary large infrastructures", "Tav sponsored by the Industrial Union – Cement Mafia", "No to the Tav. Yes to the conservation of the territory and of the 30 years of resistance "proclaimed the cartels.
The Lyon-Turin project, whose central element is a 57.5 km tunnel to be built in the Italian and French Alps, has been challenged since its inception, in particular by environmental protection associations.
But the key message worn by the demonstrators on Saturday was the denunciation of the "waste of public money" and the claim of another company.
The cost of the single tunnel is estimated at a minimum of 8.6 billion euros.
"There are more important things to invest in, such as hospitals, schools, roads", told AFP Maurizio Alfero, 60, explaining that he had recently obtained a medical appointment for September 2019. the hospital of his city, the lack of space before.
"It would be enough to use the existing (railway) line, which is underutilized," he added.
Domenico Larobina, a 31-year-old resident of Turin, would prefer to "invest in infrastructure for human development, to improve people's quality of life, not profits".
"They only think about filling their pockets, we want a different future that guarantees a real health system and the creation of real jobs," said Dana Lauriola, one of the leaders of the No Tav Movement.
On 10 November, between 30.000 and 40.000 supporters of the project had given voice in the same city of Turin, the first great demonstration of the pro-LGV. The business world was present in mass, estimating this vital infrastructure for Italy, the second largest manufacturing country in Europe.
– divided government –
The Italian government is itself divided on the issue: the Lega (on the right) of Matteo Salvini supports the project, while the 5-star movement (M5S, anti-system) is hostile.
The mayor of Torino Chiara Appendino (M5S) did not participate in the event, but reiterated on Saturday evening his opposition to the project, which he called "a model for the development of the past".
Rome has commissioned a cost-benefit analysis, which the government expects to see before making a decision.
The French transport minister, Elisabeth Borne, reiterated at the end of November France's support for Lyon-Turin, which should allow "a more efficient and environmentally friendly transport of goods".
The goal is to accelerate passenger connections by putting Turin 2 hours from Lyon, against more than 4 hours at the time, and transferring goods to the railroad while the roads are congested by trucks.
"We need to be aware that (…) if we do not have a decision at the start of 2019, the work will be stopped," Mrs. Borne said.
The shipyard, which employs a total of around 800 people, is already well underway.
If the tunnel must be 57.5 km long, all the tunnels that reach it cover 162 km: "For the moment, we have excavated 25 km, or 15%," said Piergiuseppe Gilli, director of construction at the company French-Italian Telt.
To defend this project "important for Europe as a whole", the European Commission is trying to manage carrots and sticks simultaneously.
Brussels has decided to increase its participation in the main European infrastructures from 40% to 50% in the next budget 2021-2027.
But at the same time, it does not rule out asking Rome to reimburse its contribution this year if "the funds allocated are not reasonably spent in the context of the grant agreement".