Autostrade hits back at government dossier of blame for Genoa collapse

The Italian highways company responsible for the bridge that collapsed in Genoa last month has sought to refute an Italian government report blaming it for the disaster.

Senior figures in the Italian government want to strip Autostrade per l’Italia of its vast highways concession, and are expected to use the report, written by a committee of the transport ministry, as evidence.

Autostrade has countered, calling it "mere speculation".

Published 25 September, the report said Autostrade failed to assess the safety of the Morandi Bridge, which collapsed on 14 August, killing 43 people.

It claimed Autostrade had been unable to deal with issues arising from the ageing infrastructure, and accused the company of underspending.

Of all investment to reinforce the bridge since 1982, 98% was spent before Autostrade was privatised in 1999, the report claimed, according to Reuters.

But Autostrade, which is majority owned by Atlantia, a holding company controlled by the wealthy Benetton family, hit back on the same day, saying the government report ignored its engineers during who spoke at hearings into the collapse.

Nor have its engineers had access yet to the sites seized by Genoa’s public prosecutor, so they have not been able to analyse the reasons for the collapse, the company protested.

"In this context, the responsibility of Autostrade per l’Italia hypothesised by the Commission can only be deemed mere speculation still to be fully verified and demonstrated," said Autostrade, which operates nearly 3,000km of highways in Italy.

Challenging the accusation of underspending, the company said around €9m had been spent in the past three and a half years "to increase the safety of the bridge", and that in 2015-2018 there were 926 construction days, equal to an average of five construction days per week.

In addition, the company rejected complaints about the unsuitability of its control procedures, saying they had been in place since 1985, and were examined by the concession grantor only last year.

Refutations to other claims can be read in Autostrade’s statement here.

Autostrade’s parent has much to lose if politicians strip away its concessions: they accounted for 68% of Atlantia’s core earnings in the first half of this year, reported Reuters.

Atlantia’s shares dropped after the government report was published.

Image: View from the west over the collapsed Morandi Bridge, Genoa (Salvatore Fabbrizio/Wikimedia Commons)

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