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Messina is back on blocks

Berlusconi’s return to presidency puts Italian mega bridge back into country’s infrastructure plans.

Messina is back on blocks

Construction of the Messina crossing between Italy and Sicily could be underway by the end of the year, the consortium originally appointed to build the mothballed bridge claimed this week.

Silvio Berlusconi’s recent triumph in the Italian elections means that the much-vaunted 3.3km-long structure is again on track to be the longest suspension bridge in the world.

A construction consortium led by Italian contractor Impregilo was set to start building the bridge before Romano Prodi ousted Berlusconi in the May 2006 presidential elections and scrapped the project on cost grounds.

“The new government wants to restart the bridge and I will be very happy if we are starting again with construction within this year,” said Stretto di Messina consortium technical director Guiseppe Fiammenghi.
Speaking exclusively to NCE, he added that he did not see any problems with reactivating the design, build, finance and operate contract that the consortium signed in 2005.

But he said the contract, which allowed eight years to design and construct the bridge and 30 years to operate, would have to be renegotiated as a result of the two year delay. Fiammenghi said this should be a very straightforward process.

“It depends on the willingness of the new Minister of Transport but this is something that can be done very easily,” he said.

“We have already designed a bridge that has been approved by many people.

“The bridge is a very challenging and difficult project but there is now strong political willingness.”
Fiammenghi added that Stretto di Messina, which is led by main contractor Impregilo, was already looking to increase staff levels after being wound down in the last two years.

The next step to move the scheme forward would depend on the appointment of a new Transport and Infrastructure minister.
The bridge is said to have a budget of £3.8bn (€4.7bn) and Fiammenghi added that he did not expect this to rise too much despite soaring materials costs.

“The cost of the raw materials is a low percentage compared to the final cost of the bridge,” he said.
Fiammenghi added that Berlusconi will need to press on quickly with the project to ensure the continued support of Rafael Lombardo and his Movement for the Autonomy of Sicily (MPA) that strongly supports the project. The party was vital in helping Berlusconi secure a parliamentary majority, said Fiammenghi.

Other firms that have been involved in the project are UK consultant Flint & Neill, which was advising the client, US firm Parsons International which had been appointed project manager and Danish consultant Cowie.

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