Socialist Worker

Drive to save money lies behind Italian bridge collapse in Genoa

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2618

The collapsed Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy

The collapsed Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy (Pic: Salvatore Fabbrizio/Wikipedia)


The motorway bridge that collapsed on Monday in Genoa, Italy, killing at least 39 people failed because of money.

Engineering experts said that it would have been more cost effective to knock the bridge down than to continue to repair the “uneven” construction. And being cost effective is what led to the problems.

The Morandi Bridge, built in 1967, saw heavy traffic for more than 50 years. But bridges don’t just collapse. Experts repeatedly raised the alarm that the structure was deteriorating dangerously.

“The Morandi Bridge is a failure of engineering,” said Antonio Brencich, a professor of engineering at the University of Genoa. He added that the bridge’s deficiencies were evident to everyone not just to experts.

In 2011a report by Autostrade per l’Italia,the company that operates the road, warned of “intense decay” of the bridge. It had needed continuous maintenance for years.

“Alibis are useless because everyone knew,”declared a headlinein Corriere della Sera, one of Italy’s mainstream newspapers after the collapse.

The structure of the bridge, using two types of reinforced concrete, had required a higher level of maintenance than some other designs. But the question is whether it received that maintenance or not – and whether it should have been replaced.

In the early 1990s, the suspension cables along the bridge had to be replaced, and further restructuring work was carried out in 2016.

Drained

In December 2016, Genoan newspaper Il Secolo XIX claimed maintenance of bridges in the area had been drained of funds because officials in the Liguria region only made the minimum of repairs. And they preferred spending on new, more popular projects.

The Five Star Movement (M5S), which is the largest part of Italy’s new governing coalition, said the guilty should be punished and blamed profiteering. Yet it had opposed plans to update or replace the bridge.

The M5S wrote off safety fears about the bridge as children’s fiction.

In 2013 a statement on the party’s website described warnings of “the imminent collapse of the Morandi Bridge” as a “favoletta”. The word means a children’s fantasy tale or fairy story.

The statement has since been deleted.

The M5S also drew up a list of infrastructure projects that should be scrapped. It included improvements to the bridge.

Giuseppe Conte, the Italian M5S prime minister, and far right interior minister Matteo Salvini have said the culprit is European Union (EU) austerity. The EU cuts were real.

But spending choices made by the right in Italy makes the culprits for the disaster closer to home.


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