Italy acts to revoke motorway concession after bridge collapse

Italy acts to revoke motorway concession after bridge collapse

Italy’s government on Friday launched a formal procedure aimed at revoking concessions held by Autostrade per l’Italia to operate toll highways after a bridge it managed collapsed this week, killing at least 38 people, Reuters reports.

Some members of the governing coalition had earlier hinted that less drastic steps, such as a fine, may be considered, but the leaders of both ruling parties vowed a hard line and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte later said he had put words into action.

“Today the government...has formally sent to Autostrade per l’Italia the letter of complaint which launches the process for revoking the concession,” Conte said in a statement.

The statement said the disaster was the fault of the company which “had the obligation to look after the ordinary and extraordinary maintenance of the motorway”. It added that Autostrade now had 15 days to present its counter-arguments.

Matteo Salvini, deputy prime minister and head of the right-wing League party that governs with the 5-Star Movement, said the procedure for revoking the license would take “weeks or months”.

Some sector experts estimate that if it revokes the concession the government will have to pay Autostrade up to 20 billion euros ($22.85 billion) in compensation for investments the firm has made, though the government denies this.

Shares in Atlantia (ATL.MI), parent company of Autostrade, plunged more than 30 percent after the bridge collapse in Genoa on Tuesday, but recovered somewhat on Friday, closing up 5.7 percent.

Atlantia is controlled by the holding company for the Benetton family, famous for its clothing empire.

Conte said that from now on the government would compel holders of concessions in all Italy’s creaking infrastructures to invest more of their profits in maintenance and safety.

“This disaster obliges us to take new initiatives which are far more rigorous than those contemplated by previous administrations,” he said.

A Genoa court will try to establish the exact cause of the bridge failure, but experts said problems with the concrete-encased cable stays were a possible culprit.

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