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Private finance offers hope for Messina Bridge

CONSTRUCTION OF the record-breaking Messina Bridge linking Italy and Sicily could start next year if the Italian parliament gives the green light to private finance involvement after a key debate this week.

The 30 year controversial campaign to build a 3.7km long combined road and rail suspension bridge across the Messina Straits has been dogged mainly by the government's repeated refusal to fund the overall £2.1bn cost of the total crossing with its approach routes.

But a detailed financial analysis two months ago by state bank Medio Credito concluded that it was 'totally feasible' for the private sector to fund the £1.4bn bridge costs.

'Banks and contracting groups from several countries have already expressed keen interest in the project and we believe our government will now give the go ahead,' said engineer Fortunato Covelli, spokesman for the project's state-owned promoter Stretto di Messina.

'Preliminary design for the toll bridge is already complete and we would hope to invite international tenders this autumn for a design, build, finance and operate contract.'

This would leave reportedly 'willing' regional state governments on either side of the crossing to fund the remaining £700M needed for the 25km mainly elevated road and rail approaches.

But current legislation allows Stretto di Messina to use only public funds and the main aim of this week's parliamentary debate is to amend its remit to allow the raising of private finance.

Outline designs for the steel decked bridge - with its central suspended 3,300m long span eclipsing the current record holder Japan's Akashi Kaikyo Bridge by 1,310m - have already been approved by a government technical committee.

It is likely the final design will be undertaken by the concessionary group winning the eight year construction project.

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