Bridge over the Strait of Messina, what it foresees and doubts about the project

Bridge over the Strait of Messina, what it foresees and doubts about the project


The Government is resurrecting the Strait of Messina Bridge Company, with the aim of starting work by the summer of next year and inaugurating the work on the threshold of the new decade. But on the bridge of discord weighs more than an unknown factor. Regarding the very utility of the company, the safety and the delay with which the financing of the Salerno-Reggio Calabria high-speed train is proceeded, which is essential to increase the volumes of people and goods that would then have to pass over the bridge.

The contents of the decree
Meanwhile, however, the CDM today gives the green light to the seven-article decree that revives the "Stretto di Messina" spa, which has already burned hundreds of millions of euros in consultancy, salaries and more in the past. Rfi, Anas, the Regions of Sicily and Calabria participate in the new company, as well as, to an extent of no less than 51%, the Ministry of the Economy, which exercises the shareholder's rights in agreement with the Ministry of Infrastructure, to which the latter is assigned functions of direction, control, technical and operational supervision". The concession, entrusted to the company from the date of revocation of the state of liquidation, "has a duration of thirty years starting from the entry into operation of the work" and "possible extensions of the terms for the construction of the work - continues the text - determine corresponding postponements of the duration of the concession”.
The timetable for the construction of the work requires that the executive project be approved «by 31 July 2024».

The decree practically revives the 2011 project and puts the procurement contracts canceled by the Monti government back on track with decree law 179 of 2012, with the exception of services relating to environmental monitoring.

However, nothing is said in the decree regarding the costs and duration of the works. But the provision specifies that it will be up to the new economic-financial plan of the concession to identify "the financial coverage of the investment, also through loans obtained on the national and international market, as well as the income and contributions in favor of the concessionaire". And the same plan will set the toll rates for the crossing. A fee will then have to be paid to the concessionaire by Rfi, the railway infrastructure company of FS.

However, the Deputy Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Edoardo Rixi, is unbalanced on the times. "The technical construction times for the bridge over the Strait of Messina are five years, but the country must believe in it, neither the ministry nor the government can do it alone, it takes a wave of pride as there was on the bridge in Genoa” he said perhaps a little optimistically, given that the feasibility studies up until yesterday spoke of seven years.

Criticalities
By the end of July next year, therefore, the executive project will see the light. But there have already been studies and debates on which is the best choice to connect Sicily to the Continent for decades and on the table of the Minister of Infrastructures, Matteo Salvoni, there are already feasibility studies with the two most accredited solutions: those of the one span and three. For both experts, however, present critical issues. The one suspended with a single span of 3 kilometers of light, with pillars on the ground of 300 meters, should necessarily be built far from both Messina and Reggio Calabria, because it must be built in the least extensive point of the strait, which is located at its extreme north . It would be very inconvenient for all local traffic, which would continue to use the ferries because they are faster. It also presents non-negligible seismic problems, and above all, being a very flexible structure, in all days of strong winds, very frequent on the strait, it would probably not be usable. Furthermore, the abnormal foundations of the pillars (the largest in the world, cubes of almost one hundred meters on each side) present uncertainties on the temperatures that are generated during the concrete setting phase, with consequences that are not entirely known on the results of the setting itself.

The other and more recent solution is to build a suspension bridge, but much longer, which would directly connect the two major cities, and would have three spans with two pillars, less demanding than the previous ones, but resting on the seabed slopes of the strait. This, however - according to some studies carried out up to now - would generate very severe static problems, because those slopes do not appear to be geologically stable at all.

Regarding who and what should transit on the bridge, the current traffic via ferry is 45.2 million people a year, to which are added another 6.3 million who choose the plane instead. For goods we are talking about 3.3 million tons while another 2.2 travel by long-distance ships. And compared to these numbers, no study has so far ventured to forecast traffic growth. Which is then the objective of an investment that according to the latest forecasts would be around 4 billion. However, the fact remains that in order to move a greater number of passengers and goods, high-speed rail is needed. But the Frecce of Trenitalia as well as the Leprotti of Italo stopped well before Ebola, with the Pnrr which finances only thirty kilometers of high-speed trains from Battipaglia to Romagnano. And if fast trains remain far from the Strait, even the benefits of the bridge end up being reduced.



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