Italy minister says Autostrade will not get contract to rebuild bridge

FILE PHOTO: The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy, August 14. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

MILAN/ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s Autostrade was to blame for the collapse of a bridge because of its failure to conduct maintenance, and the company will not be given the contract to rebuild it, Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said on Tuesday.

Forty-three people died in the collapse of the bridge in the northern city of Genoa, a major test for Italy’s new government.

Autostrade, which runs 3000 km (2,500 miles) of toll roads across Italy, responded to Toninelli’s remarks by saying it had spent more on repairs across its network than required under its concession.

The company, which is 88 percent owned by Benetton-controlled Atlantia, accounts for more than 60 percent of its parent firm’s core earnings.

Toninelli said that the government was working on a decree, to be approved on Friday, that would assign the reconstruction of the bridge to a state-controlled company, probably Fincantieri, cutting off Autostrade.

“The collapse of the bridge was not due to a tragic accident, but to a lack of maintenance, which was up to Autostrade per l’Italia,” he said in parliament.

Italy’s daily La Stampa reported that the government was also working on another decree aimed at revoking Autostrade’s whole motorway concession. Toninelli did not mention a second decree in his hearing.

In reply to Toninelli’s remarks, Autostrade said it had spent 5.14 billion euros ($5.95 billion) on the upkeep of its whole road network between 2000 and 2017. It said this was more than it was required to spend, although it did not give further details about where or when the money was spent.

It said the total hours of maintenance on the bridge that collapsed were equivalent to five days a week of repairs between 2015 and 2018.

Reporting by Francesca Landini and Stefano Bernabei; Editing by Peter Graff