Statement against the project of a tunnel under the Vignemale

Publié le 8 juillet 2005, mise à jour le 11 décembre 2007

Dear Sir, Madam,

If you have chosen to spend your vacation in the Pyrenees, it is most likely because of their beauty, and their cultural heritage. Many of you come back to our region every year.

The seven valleys of the Lavedan are the most frequented of the Pyrenees.Your interest in these sites is unwavering. However, this shared enthusiasm must not mask a grave danger which threatens the future of our valleys. A project of a tunnel under the Vignemale disturbs the peace of a large majority of the people of our region. It is why our association, ActivalACTIVALAssociation contre le Tunnel Inutile dans les Vallées d’Ailleurs et du Lavedan is fighting.

What is ActivalACTIVALAssociation contre le Tunnel Inutile dans les Vallées d’Ailleurs et du Lavedan ? ”Association against a tunnel useless in the Lavedan and elsewhere”,ActivalACTIVALAssociation contre le Tunnel Inutile dans les Vallées d’Ailleurs et du Lavedan was created by the law 1901 in Octobre 2002. Its mission id to defend the valleys of Argeles-Gazost and the High Lavedan against this project.

Why a new tunnel ? This tunnel, long of 42km would connect Biescas (Spain) with Pierrefitte-Nestalas. It is commonly called TCPTCPTraversée Centrale des Pyrénées, or Traversee Centrale des Pyrenees. It would be the trans-border part of a transEuropean and transcontinental axis, which would serve to transport merchandise by rail. To justify this new break into the mountain, its supporters often invoke the increasing traffic between France and Spain (95% been actually served by trucks at the two ends of the chain, while the maritime transport represents 42% of global traffic). But if we really analyze the situation, we quickly see that the objective is entirely different : alternate solution already exist to lighten the highway traffic. It is rather an explosion of commercial exchanges between continents that is the goal of this new project.

Who wants the TCPTCPTraversée Centrale des Pyrénées ? The lobbying from the presidents of the Midi-Pyrenees and Aragon regions is very aggressive. The Spanish government is also fiercely in favor of the projected tunnel. Together, they wish that this axis of rail freight “Sines-Algesiras_Madrid-Paris” passes through the central Pyrenees region. The media coverage is often too sympathetic to their views.

Brief history of the project : June 13, 2003, a law is proposed by politicians from the Pyrenees region to ask for a study of a proposed project Biescas-Pierrefitte, unbeknownst to local mayors and population. April 2004, the European Parliament validates the project of a freight axis Sines-Algesiras-Madrid-Paris, proposed by the European Commission , and proclaims it of European interest, although it rejects the term “central” initially propose. December 7, 2004, at the Franco-Spanish summit in Saragosse, president Chirac expresses his will to revive the project of a Central passage under the Pyrenees, which shows the power of the lobbies involved. December 10, 2004, the General Counsel of the Pyrenees presents a report on the TCPTCPTraversée Centrale des Pyrénées. This report denounces the false pro TCPTCPTraversée Centrale des Pyrénées arguments : there will be no multi-functional station in Tarbes, and no increase in passenger traffic ; the effect of the project on the local springs is unpredictable. Many of our arguments have thus been confirmed after a six months inquiry.

More than ever, we refuse ;

- The visual and sound disturbances brought by trains of containers. The ten thousand inhabitants of the valley and the tourists will not suffer the continuous passage of these trains, and the noise amplified by the very shape of the valley, one of the most beautiful in Europe.

- The threat to the thermal springs implanted in the Vignemale region : pierced by a low altitude tunnel, the massif is in danger of losing its function as a watershed for Cauterets, Bareges and Luz-Saint-Sauveur.

- The moral, physical and financial detriment to the local population : all jobs related to tourism, thermalism , commerce and agriculture are threatened.

- The destruction of natural preserves. The valley is in the periphery of the National Park, and the Gave of Pau is classified Natura 2000. Further than the Pyrenees, the Gers, the Lot et Garonne, the Dordogne are also exposed.

- The lies which continue to represent the TCPTCPTraversée Centrale des Pyrénées as an ecologically sound project. In fact, it will only serve to increase the quantity of merchandise imports, rather than lighten the local highway traffic,

- An economic project conceived to inject thousands of tons of merchandise coming from Asia and Southeast Asia via Singapour and the port of Sines, and coming from Africa via Algesiras .The TcpTCPTraversée Centrale des Pyrénées, in fact, encourages foreign production from countries where exploitation of workers and unsafe work conditions are the norm.

For the transport of freight through the Pyrenees, other solutions exist, which respect the human dimension and the environment.

The construction of two TGV lines at each end of the Pyrenees(near Barcelona and Bilbao) would relieve the existing rail lines and fre them for freight. The reopening of the line Saragosse-Canfranc-Pau, and Le Perthus, could absorb nearly 40 million tons of merchandise.

In addition, these lines near the coast would allow connections with the “highways of the sea, less costly, consuming less energy, carried by all large French and Spanish harbors of the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, with the support of Europe.

The usefulness of this exorbitant project has still to be proven, here as well as anywhere in the Pyrenees !

Our duty is to alert inhabitants, tourists and neighboring regions whose natural spaces run the risk of been uselessly and definitively destroyed. It is the role of the numerous banners you see floating in the area.

All the mayors of the county of Argeles-Gazost have rejected categorically the project of TCPTCPTraversée Centrale des Pyrénées. Another organization, No Pasaran, based in Lourdes, works on the same cause. Like the largest majority of local residents, say NO to the TCPTCPTraversée Centrale des Pyrénées, support us !

You can help us by joining our association, signing our petitions and coming to our future gatherings of protest.

To resign is to sign the death warrant of our valleys !