FEATURES » Concerns about potential structural failure

Concerns about potential structural failure

The collapse of the Morandi bridge in Genoa has spread concern about the safety of infrastructures in Italy. The bridge carried a major road, the A10 toll motorway, which serves the Italian Riviera and links northern Italy to France. 43 people were killed in the bridge disaster and hundreds of citizens were left without a home. What now worries Italians is that around 70 per cent of Italy’s 15,000 motorway bridges and tunnels are more than 40 years old, and there is no certainty about their state of maintenance. Moreover, most Italian bridges were built during the post-war boom and now carry far more traffic than they were designed for. The main concern is that disasters like the one in Genoa might happen again due to lack of investment, poor maintenance and, in some cases, the involvement of mafia-run building companies that use poor quality concrete to increase profits.

Experts warned that up to 300 bridges, viaducts and tunnels in Italy are at risk of structural failure. Among the structures at risk there is the Magliana Bridge in Rome, between the city centre and the capital’s busiest airport, Fiumicino.

According to the newspaper “Il Tempo” there are 11 thousand unsafe bridges in Italy.

The government has set up a commission to examine the causes of the disaster. Investigators are studying what may have caused the collapse of the 260ft-long portion of the motorway, causing 35 cars and several trucks to plunge from the bridge. 

Luigi Di Maio, deputy prime minister and the leader of the Five Star Movement, accused Autostrade per l’Italia, the private company that managed the Genoa bridge - of making profits at the expense of public safety. Autostrade operates nearly 2,000 miles of Italian motorways, and is controlled by the Benetton group through its holding company, Atlantia. Mr Di Maio accused previous Italian governments of turning a blind eye to the upkeep of the country’s motorways because of political contributions. Di Maio stated that Autostrade was protected by previous governments and said he wanted to revoke the contract awarded to Autostrade and hit the company with a massive fine of 150 million euros.

Autostrade denied accusations that it had not invested enough in maintenance, and insisted the bridge had been constantly under control. According to the company over one billion euros a year have been invested in the security, maintenance and strengthening of the network, over the last five years.

However, an engineering report released in 2009 studied the possibility of the bridge being demolished because of concerns over its structural integrity.

The five-star movement’s position is less clear then it seems, as, reportedly, in 2013 the founder of Five Star movement, Beppe Grillo, had opposed plans to build a new motorway that would have alleviated pressure on the Morandi bridge and dismissed warnings that the bridge could collapse as fake news on his widely-read blog.

The Genoa bridge collapse was also predicted by one leading industrialist when the plans for the new motorway were blocked.  

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