The Italian government will create a “real Marshall plan” to secure the country’s aging infrastructure following the Genoa bridge collapse Tuesday, which killed at least 39 people and injured more than a dozen, the country’s Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said.
In a Facebook post, he also called on the top managers of the private company operating the bridge, Autostrade, to resign.
An 80-metre section of the Morandi bridge on the A10 motorway linking the port city of Genoa with southern France collapsed in an industrial area of the city during a storm. Dozens of vehicles crashed onto a railway, two warehouses and onto a riverbed. The bridge is 50 years old, Reuters reported.
Both Toninelli and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called on Autostrade’s concession to be revoked, accusing the company of not having done its job. The transport minister said the company could be fined up to €150 million.
“They collect billions, pay a few million in taxes and do not even make the necessary maintenance for bridges and roads,” Toninelli said in his Facebook post.
However, Toninelli’s party, the 5Star Movement, was criticized in the aftermath of the collapse for including the Morandi bridge on a list of infrastructure projects to which planned improvements were at risk of being scrapped “if the costs outweigh the benefits.”
A page on the 5Stars website that described concerns about structural problems with the bridge as a “children’s tale” was removed (a screenshot is here.)
Autostrade said it had done regular, sophisticated checks on the structure before the disaster, relying on “companies and institutions which are world leaders in testing and inspections” and that these had provided reassuring results.
Italy is ranked 45th in the World Economic Forum’s quality of roads ranking, behind Namibia, Rwanda and Swaziland). And with higher placed EU countries like Germany, France and Spain on a downward trend in the ranking, the Genoa disaster has sparked broader questions about investment in infrastructure across the bloc.
Germany is also facing problems maintaining its infrastructure. The country counts some 39,500 bridges across its highway network, and, according to the Transport Ministry, roughly 87 percent of those are classified as in good condition.
The rest need work on things like strengthening railings or fixing up potholes with €1.4 billion set aside this year for maintenance.
“The tragic events in Genoa should be a reminder to us in Germany, our transport infrastructure and especially our bridges should be rehabilitated now,” said Peter Hübner, president of the of Federation of the German Construction Industry.
Hübner said some 10,000 bridges need to be replaced by 2030, with the quality of a road on the A1 over the Rhine river near Leverkusen of specific concern.
In Germany, testing is carried out every six years on each bridge while visual inspections are carried out every six months to monitor wear and tear.
Austria’s Transport Minister Norbert Hofer said in a letter to Toninelli following the bridge collapse that experts from the national road management agency Asfinag would be on hand to help.