Italy’s new government threatens to revoke motorway concessions after bridge collapse

The authorities are also demanding resignations and considering fines for operator Autostrade, following the incident in Genoa which killed at least 37 people.

The Italian government is threatening to revoke motorway concessions for Atlantia subsidiary Autostrade per l’Italia and has called on its managers to resign and face fines of up to €150 million following yesterday’s collapse of the Morandi Bridge, in Genoa, which has killed 37 people at the time of writing.

After Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte yesterday ordered strict controls and an “extraordinary plan to monitor all infrastructures, especially the older ones”, his deputy Luigi Di Maio led the reaction against Autostrade, manager of more than 3,000 kilometres of motorways in Italy, in a statement on his Facebook page.

“Those responsible for the Genoa tragedy have a name and surname, and are Autostrade per l’Italia,” he said. “For years it has been said that private management would have been better than state [management]. And so, today, we have one of the biggest concessionaires in Europe telling us that the bridge was safe and there was nothing that could predict the collapse. Autostrade had to do the maintenance and did not do it. It collects the highest tolls in Europe and pays very low taxes, moreover in Luxembourg. The concessions must be withdrawn, and the fines paid.”

Di Maio was joined by infrastructure minister Danilo Toninelli, who said the leaders of Autostrade must resign and that he has already begun procedures for the “possible revocation” of Autostrade concessions – which he said are at “shameful prices” – and to impose fines of up to €150 million.

“I want to reiterate with even more force: those who [are to] blame for this unjustifiable tragedy must be punished,” he added. “If they cannot manage our motorways, the state will do it.”

Autostrade expressed its condolences and said it has invested more than €1 billion in each of the last five years in maintaining and upgrading its network. It also said internal department Tronco di Genova monitored the safety and quality of its infrastructure on a quarterly basis, providing the company with “adequate reassurances”.

Atlantia last year sold 11.94 percent of Autostrade for €1.48 billion, with 5 percent bought by China’s Silk Road Fund and 6.94 percent by a consortium led by Allianz Capital Partners and including EDF Invest and the DIF Infrastructure IV and V funds.

Allianz expressed its deepest sympathies for the victims and told Infrastructure Investor as “one of several investors in the company Autostrade per I’Italia, we hope that the factors that led to the collapse will soon be identified, in order to avoid tragedies of this kind happening again.”

DIF declined to comment on the incident and the reaction.

The collapse of the Morandi Bridge has caused anger aside from the government, particularly from former Genoa senator Maurizio Rossi, who had outlined structural concerns about the bridge to Italy’s transport ministry several times in recent years. Yesterday, he said he was “bitter and sad” about the tragedy and placed the blame at the feet of both the government and Autostrade.

Despite the statements from Conte, Di Maio and Toninelli of Italy’s Five Star Movement party, it emerged yesterday that Five Star in 2013 opposed major infrastructure works in Genoa and said the “imminent collapse” of the Morandi Bridge was a “fairytale”.