September 13, 2018 / 8:18 PM / 7 days ago

Italy government passes motorway decree, delays appointing commissioner

ROME (Reuters) - The Italian government approved a decree on Thursday aimed at speeding up the rebuilding of a collapsed motorway bridge in the northern city of Genoa that is a vital transport link for the whole country.

FILE PHOTO: A woman look at the collapsed Morandi Bridge, in the port city of Genoa, Italy August 16, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo

However, in a sign of internal divisions within the coalition government, the cabinet did not name the person it wants to oversee the reconstruction effort, with a row simmering over which companies should take part in the huge project.

A section of the bridge came crashing down on Aug. 14, killing 43 people in a disaster that highlighted the poor state of Italy’s infrastructure, much of it built in the 1950s and 60s when far fewer cars and lorries were in circulation.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the government decree offered tax breaks to companies in Genoa that are likely to be hit by the loss of the bridge, which carried thousands of tonnes of goods every day, and financial help for the worst affected.

It also opened the way for the appointment of a special commissioner to orchestrate the reconstruction effort.

“The extraordinary commissioner will have ample powers to proceed and decide, to allow Genoa to have a more beautiful bridge, a brand new bridge,” Conte told a news conference.

However, he said a candidate had not yet been named.

Giovanni Toti, the governor of the Liguria region, which is centred on Genoa, has pushed for the job, but he has clashed with Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli over who should be awarded the contract.

Toti said at the weekend that motorway toll company Autostrade, which is controlled by infrastructure company Atlantia, should be involved. The government has accused Autostrade of negligence and insists it should have nothing to do with the rebuilding.

There was no indication of when a commissioner would be appointed.

Toninelli said the government wanted to ensure that Italy’s entire road network was safe and he announced on Thursday that his ministry would set up a new body staffed by 250 engineers to carry out a nationwide check-up on transport links.

“This decree responds to the needs not only of Genoa but to the security of all our infrastructure,” he said.

Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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