* Government says has no plans to scrap rail project
* Protest most serious to face PM Mario Monti's government
(Adds clashes in Milan, details)
By Elisa Sola
VAL DI SUSA, Italy, March 1 Demonstrators
opposed to a high-speed train line linking Italy to France
blocked roads, motorways and railway stations in several Italian
cities on Thursday, escalating a long-running protest that has
turned increasingly violent.
A group of about 1,000 protesters occupied a portion of a
highway in the Val di Susa, an Alpine valley near Turin where
work on the project is due to take place, setting up roadblocks
and fires using tyres and pieces of metal.
Others briefly blocked tracks at the city's main station,
preventing trains from departing. There were similar
demonstrations in Bologna, Genoa, Trieste, Palermo.
In Milan, scuffles broke out between police in riot gear and
hundreds of demonstrators at the Centrale railway station.
In Rome, around 100 protesters set fire to rubbish bins and
stormed the offices of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD)
which has distanced itself from the demonstrations.
Thursday's protests followed a night of clashes between
hooded, stone-throwing demonstrators and police, who used water
cannons and teargas to disperse the crowd.
Police said 29 policemen were injured in the clashes, while
the demonstrators said around 100 of their own had been hurt in
the most serious protest facing Prime Minister Mario Monti's
technocrat government since it took office in November.
"What we saw overnight was really urban warfare," Sandro
Plano, who represents 23 Val di Susa mayors opposed to the train
link, told Reuters.
"They will not be able to resolve this issue with batons and
teargas. The government must listen to the people," he said.
NO CHANGE TO PLANS
The government said it would go ahead with plans to build
the train line despite the protests and Monti said he would meet
top ministers on Friday to assess security issues connected to
"The government, the Piedmont region and the city of Turin
confirm their commitment," the Interior Ministry said in a
statement, calling the high-speed train "essential."
Villagers in Val di Susa have held repeated demonstrations
against the planned train link, a 15-billion-euro ($20 bln)
project signed off by Italy and France in 2001 which is
supported by the government and backed by European Union funds.
Critics say it will damage the environment, spoil the
picturesque landscape and waste public money that would be best
put to use to solve the economic crisis.
Opposition has spread beyond the local area, winning support
from a wide range of groups.
Protesters say they will not back down until the project is
scrapped, but Interior Minister Annamaria Cancellieri said in a
newspaper interview on Thursday that stopping the construction
work was not an option.
($1 = 0.7501 euros)
(Reporting By Elisa Sola; writing by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by