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Italy's 10-metre Alpine High Speed Rail mega-tunnel

After 20 years' delay because of opposition from locals and environmental campaigners, work on the Italian side of a high-speed rail tunnel designed to link Turin with Lyon in France has finally begun. But with protesters in the woods and hills around the site, the Italian army has been brought in to provide security. He called my mobile phone sounding a little panicky, shortly before our rendezvous at an anonymous motorway service station in north-west Italy.

"We have to change the plan," he blurted. "They've found out you're coming!"

This sounded interesting. My run-of-the-mill filming trip to a tunnelling project - albeit the world's most extravagant in ambition, budget and controversy - was turning into a scene from a spy drama.

"Who's found out what?" I asked.

"The protesters!" he exclaimed. "We can't meet there after all."