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Sauternes high speed rail: 11th hour bid to block plan

Winemakers in Sauternes are incensed that France's government has approved what they believe is a 'ludicrous' plan to build a high speed trainline near to vineyards south of Bordeaux.

The fight against the Sauternes high speed rail line that will help to link Bordeaux and Dax/Toulouse took a serious step back this week when the French government approved the plans.

Winemakers were particularly angry that government officials appeared to ignore a survey published in March 2015 that saw 96% of 14,000 respondents opposed to the cost and environmental impact of the trainline.

‘The economic benefits for the entire Atlantic arc of southwest France outweigh the concerns,’ said French transport minister Alain Vidalies.

The president of the Aquitaine region, Alain Rousset, has long been in favour of the project, as is Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppé.

But local environmentalists and Sauternes wine producers vowed to fight on, and are set to contest the trainline plan in Bordeaux’s supreme court.

‘We have the backing of local politicians such as Gilles Savary, who will be taking the argument back to parliament,’ David Ornon of Château Guiraud told Decanter.com.

‘There is a contradiction perhaps because the vines themselves will not be affected by the train line, but their ecosystem will be devastated. The Cirons river will be cut through in three separate places, and that will have an irreversible effect on the noble rot that gives Sauternes wine its identity.’

The Ciron valley is the subject of studies by INRA (the French National Institute for Agricultural Research) and has also been placed under priority conservation by INRA’s Commission for Forestry and Genetic Resources due to threats to its genetic pool from climate change.

‘The argument put forward by [French rail network] RFF that there will be no adverse effects on the environment is ludicrous,’ said campaigners.

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