Italian PM set to reopen Genoa bridge two years after fatal collapse

Rome (AFP) –


Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Sunday described the opening of the new Genoa bridge, which replaces one that collapsed two years ago killing 43 people, as a "symbol of a new Italy" on the eve of its inauguration.

On August 14, 2018, the Morandi motorway bridge, named after the engineer who designed it, gave way during heavy rain, hurling dozens of cars and several trucks onto railway tracks below.

The replacement bridge, a high-tech structure with advanced safety mechanisms designed by famed Italian architect Renzo Piano, is due to open to traffic on Tuesday or Wednesday.

"Tomorrow, I will be in Genoa for the inauguration of the new bridge," Conte wrote on his Facebook account on Sunday.

"From a wound that is slow to heal to the symbol of a new Italy which is recovering."

The inauguration ceremony will be a bitter-sweet occasion with the families of the victims who are refusing to take part, and meeting 10 days later to mark the second anniversary of the tragedy.

The speed with which the new bridge has been erected has been impressive.

Italy, often criticised for the slow pace of the execution of public works, worked hard to complete the bridge at the end of April since when finishing touches and safety tests have been carried out.

Many personalities will be present at the inauguration which will proceed under the threat of heavy rains which are expected on Monday in Liguria, the region of Genoa.

President Sergio Mattarella will be the first to officially cross the new bridge. The architect Piano will also be present.

The collapse of the bridge gave rise to a bitter legal battle, which is still ongoing.

The Morandi was hailed a marvel of engineering when it opened in 1967, but an investigation into the disaster found it was neglected.

Autostrade, which runs almost half of Italy's motorway network, has been accused of failing to maintain it properly, with allegations of falsified safety reports and in-house pressure to slash maintenance costs.

Atlantia, the parent group of Autostrade, is controlled by the wealthy Benetton family, which finally bowed to pressure last month to relinquish control of its besmirched toll-road operator, which will be nationalised.

Autostrade is under investigation, along with several transport ministry officials, for culpable homicide.