Rome Determined to Charge the Manager of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa

A decree allows the government to revoke the concession in Atlantia, which managed the maintenance of the collapsed Genoa viaduct.

The concession of motorways is again a hot topic in Italy. The tension has just gone up a notch between the public authorities and the Atlantia group, whose subsidiary Autostrade per l’Italia (ASPI) manages nearly 3,000 kilometers of motorways on the Peninsula, as well as bridges and viaducts as well than 80% of motorway tolls. Since the Morandi bridge collapsed in Genoa in August 2018, which left 43 people dead, ASPI, which provided maintenance, has come under fire from critics.

In recent days, the Italian government wants to show its determination to charge the concessionaire. Saturday, December 21, pressed the accelerator by adopting a decree allowing him to revoke the highway concessions for a limited cost, the public debt of the Italian state reaching 130% of GDP. In this decree, in fact, a new clause appears which changes the conditions of compensation for companies if a concession were to be withdrawn from them. Autostrade per l’Italia is not named but the group is clearly targeted. If the decree comes into force (it must still pass in Parliament in January 2020 to become a law), then the compensation, for ASPI, would be equivalent to the only value of the work already carried out and would not include penalties calculated on the revenues planned until the end of the concession, in 2038. A shortfall which could amount to more than 10 billion euros for the subsidiary of Atlantia, which calculated these compensation between 23 and 25 billion euros.

A blow to the motorway concessionaire who could also be convicted of serious misconduct after the Genoa disaster and have to pay a fine of 1.5 to 2 billion euros. As soon as the decree was signed, ASPI sent a protest letter to the government explaining that “neither urgency nor necessity” required any breach of contract and that it reserved the right to attack the State before the justice. Threats deemed “unacceptable” by the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Paola De Micheli.

The government decree also caused the dismay of Aiscat, the consortium which brings together the twenty-two private concessionaires of motorways and tunnels in the Peninsula. In a press release, he deplores an unconstitutional decree which is “a very serious violation of the rule of law, since it unilaterally modifies by law the existing contracts between the state and highway concessionaires”.