The promise of the bridge, what the story of the Strait of Messina spa says

The doubts to be resolved, the risks to be faced and the unknowns reported by C.Conti in 2018

The Bridge over the Strait of Messina it will do. There are no doubts according to the Ministry of Infrastructure. “It will be the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world, the flagship of Italian engineering: 3.2 km with a single span for vehicular and railway traffic”. The page relating to the work on the MIT website also explains what the bridge means for those who have forcefully re-proposed its strategic value. “The Bridge over the Strait of Messina (between Sicily and Calabria) is the challenge of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructures and Transport Matthew Salvini and of the entire centre-right governmentat the helm of the country for a few months”.

An imposing work that has been talked about for decades and whose realization becomes concrete: the day after the approval in the Council of Ministers of the decree that gives new life to the Strait of Messina company, it is expected for July 2024 the executive design and the start of the works”. Will it really happen? And will it be done in the indicated times? It will depend on the political will, the ability to find the necessary resources and the ability to manage a complex process, which will certainly be less linear than promised.

To summarize all the doubts, risks and unknowns associated with the construction of the bridge is precisely the history of the company that has been chosen to resurrect, the Strait of Messina spa. It was born more than forty years ago, in 1981, with a capital controlled by Italstat, then Iritecna, and Iri, and the participation with equal shares of Fs, Anas, the Calabria Region and the Sicilian Region. Over time, the shareholding structure undergoes changes, the contracts stipulated with various contractors lead to millionaire claims for compensation. With the alternation of governments, especially between 2006 and 2009, progress is made and then the corresponding steps backwards. In 2011 the definitive project arrives, with a single span, uniting two places called Ganzirri and Contrada Piale. But it doesn’t go any further. And the operational life of the company, in fact, ended in 2013, with the liquidation. However, opening a new season of problems.

In a resolution of the Court of Auditors of October 2018, which bears an exhaustive title ‘The problematic closure of the liquidation of Stretto di Messina spa’, there are many of the elements that recur today. Pending appeals, disputes, inactive Administrations. Over the years, the accounting Judiciary notes, the concessionaire has requested more than 300 million from the state administrations for its previous activities. Given the persistence of the liquidation without conclusion for over eight years, the budget bill for the year 2021 provides for its liquidation ex lege with immediate effect but the provision is removed by the Presidency of the Chamber of Deputies. Until the decision of this government, with the company being reactivated in the Budget Law, and the decree approved in the CDM.

The MIT site is always authentic. The Council of Ministers “has given the go-ahead to a text that allows for the immediate restart of the project planning and construction process”. As? “The Strait of Messina Company is reborn, which will have a new and more modern governance. A solid participation of the MEF and MIT is expected, confirming the importance that the government attributes to the stable connection between Calabria and Sicily”. In concrete terms, “we start again from the final 2011 project which will be adapted to the new technical, safety and environmental standards”. The decree, however, does not exist. The formula that is used when approving a frame has been approved, subject to agreements, with the text that will arrive after the necessary technical insights that are missing. For now, in fact, there is a new attempt for the bridge over the Strait. A promise. (by Fabio Insenga)