An end to the tunnel?

Much-contested TAV may arrive at SMN station

Editorial Staff
October 22, 2009

Mayor Matteo Renzi has heard the protest against the proposed underground high-speed train line, TAV, originally planned to arrive at a new underground station designed by architect Norman Foster in the ex-Macelli area.


Renzi recently scrapped the Foster project and announced that the TAV would instead stop in Florence's central train station, Santa Maria Novella (SMN).


The new route would give passengers quicker access to the historic centre and the Fortezza da Basso, which Palazzo Vecchio plans to turn into a high-profile convention centre.


The TAV line has been one of the most highly contested urban infrastructure works in Florence. The former centre-left city administration, headed by Leonardo Domenici, first presented the ambitious plan in 2002. With a price tag starting at 380 million euro, the TAV line, however, has never gained the full support of local residents and environmentalists. According to the original plan, a 400-meter deep, 7.5-kilometer long tunnel was supposed to pass under commercial and residential areas in the city centre.


The risk of an environmental disaster is substantial. The environmental debate began when officials realized that the tunnel would likely affect the underground water tables that feed the Arno. This could cause the ground above and around the tunnel to give way and even cause the collapse of buildings situated above and near the tunnel.


Concerned residents also joined calls to stop the TAV tunnel, which would have taken some ten years to build, and have launched an array of No TAV committees. Locals believe the high-speed trains will cause vibration, noise pollution and air pollution.


Renzi also believes the proposed TAV tunnel (which was to start in Campo di Marte and end at the ex-Macelli, just 1.5 km north of SMN) poses too much of a threat to the environment, and the city in general. As a result, he said, the plan would be re-evaluated and undergo considerable modification.


On October 13, Renzi provided a few details on his vision of the TAV: ‘The high speed trains will now arrive at SMN station, below platform 16 to be precise; it will be a non-station, meaning that it will only be an underground stop along the TAV route. This adjustment will allow us to regain centrality. Florence will have the only high-speed station in Italy located in the heart of the city.'


Although nothing is official, Renzi says he will be negotiating with officials from the Ferrovie della Stato to discuss the future of the TAV line in Florence.

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