Bridge over the Strait of Messina yes or no
The bridge over the Strait of Messina is still a work subject to heated debates relating to costs, usefulness and technical feasibility.
This bridge, which should connect a stable road and rail crossing of the Strait of Messina, thus connecting Sicily with Calabria, the Italian peninsula and the European continent, would have, according to the latest design hypotheses, a single span of 3,300 m, which would make it by far the longest suspension bridge in the world.
But the history of the bridge is so long, complex and varied that it lends itself to a treatment that is as complex as it is articulated.
We recall that already in 2013 the concessionaire company, in liquidation (i.e. the Strait of Messina spa), had developed over the years (project of 1981) a feasible design scheme. In 2005, following the winning of the contract by Eurolink scpa, it seemed that works were due to begin, but a series of subsequent additions blocked the works. In the bureaucratic complexity of the work, we recall how the Eurolink company, which was awarded the preliminary project, would not have had to wait for the final approval of the start of construction work: the work was awarded on the preliminary basis.
In the meantime, the Italian State had had 540 days (from the presentation of the project) to raise the funds, to start the work with the completion of the financing. Leaving aside the numerous bureaucratic aftermath, which then ended up in judicial proceedings, we remember that the Court of Cassation also considered the agreement between Eurolink and the company Stretto di Messina spa to be perfectly valid and operational.
We also remember that the project, and the works, with the following clarifications, remain in the feasible subject of political propaganda, but to date with works not started; in short, a story that seems relatively recent but which is instead lost almost in the mists of time.
Suffice it to say that the idea of permanently connecting Sicily to the continent has very ancient origins.
The first projects date back to the time of the Romans who had thought, and probably built, a pontoon bridge. This almost trivial solution, however, would have prevented the transit of ships in the strait. It is said, in fact, that they had succeeded in making the troops pass over a bridge of boats and barrels. The attempt is narrated by Pliny the Elder who tells of the construction, commissioned by the consul Lucio Cecilio Metello in 251 BC, of a bridge made of boats and barrels to transport from Sicily 140 war elephants captured by the Carthaginians in the battle of Palermo during the first war Punic. Other times, other procedures.
Returning to the present day, beyond all the proclamations and promises, never kept, it is necessary, given the great change that post globalization is prefiguring, to evaluate whether the Bridge over the Strait responds more to real social and economic needs (as well as compatibility environmental) or only to the economic interests of some groups and economic potentates.
Economic sustainability of the work –
Let’s go to the cost of the Strait Bridge and its economic sustainability.
According to the latest analyzes, this work would have an estimated cost of over 4 billion euros.
This is a high cost since the per capita income per inhabitant oscillates between 26,000 euros in the autonomous province of Bolzano and 13,600 euros in Sicily or 12,700 euros in Calabria (data as of 2018); in short, the bridge would cost just more to the two regions (excluding Campania) with the lowest per capita income.
Add to this the physiological trend of increasing the cost of carrying out the works; to give an example, consider that the Channel Tunnel, whose construction was completed in 1994, with a cost that, initially estimated at 3 billion pounds of private capital, has finally risen to over 10 billion (and we are talking about France and Great Britain and add nothing else). In short, there is a cost multiplication factor of 3.33 to be taken into account.
Considering, moreover, the average saving capacity of Italians, today strongly questioned by various vicissitudes, not least that of COVID-19, we risk putting on our and our children’s shoulders an additional burden from which it will be difficult to re-emerge.
The proponents of the construction of the Bridge over the Strait argue that the same construction would allow a substantial increase in GDP per capita precisely for the Regions that would be connected but they still reason with the economic parameters of a capitalist economy, and therefore with its projections, clearly in crisis and in discussion.
The progressive advent and affirmation of the Circular Economy are not based on six flows between the parties and, therefore, substantially, on commercial exchanges but on production, on internal circulation, on transformative economies and on the ability, therefore, to generate well-being ( and not wealth which is a capitalist concept) transforming one’s territorial potential.
The evaluations of the social and economic usefulness of a bridge built in a circular economy are completely different from those of a bridge built in a capitalist economy, sadly reached its epilogue.
All scenarios change, the exchange and transport system changes, we are moving towards a short range very dear to the Circular Economy; short-range exchanges necessary, also to strongly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and climate-altering gases and connect territories and people with each other.
Yet economic analyzes continue to be made based on variables that are no longer valid and not interconnected with the needs of the Paris Agreements and Agenda 2030 (to name a few).
Obviously a very complex topic that would require a separate discussion.
Add to this the maintenance of the work.
Among other things, few know that while yet another controversy is staged, this time over the opportunities of the Recovery Fund, the Bridge continues to cost 1,500 euros per day, according to the latest budget approved by the Strait of Messina.
Maintenance is one of those things that are indispensable for a bridge of this type, in contact with sea water and local winds, but which is almost never mentioned in costs. The salt ruins both the steel and the concrete and maintenance should be done constantly, practically every day with exuberant costs.
Ultimately, the construction costs would be so high that, even if it were given to a company to manage it, it would first have to see if it can be a profitable business or not and, ultimately, the cost of the ticket to pass by car, truck or train. it would be very high, perhaps higher than the cost of the ferry today.
To finish on this aspect, it should be considered that, with its financing, the Bridge will prevent the construction of the works that serve the South.
Railways, connections to the ports, roads will be postponed.
In fact, the Strait of Messina is not the bottleneck of transport between Sicily and the Peninsula. Today all the mobility scenarios for the South show how it is necessary to diversify the transport offer according to the different needs of goods and passengers, medium and long distances, types of goods, tourist seasonality, focusing on the integration between the different modes of travel .
One of the biggest lies written and repeated by the Strait of Messina is that the bridge serves above all to relaunch rail transport. To reinforce the motivation, the government has included another pharaonic work such as the High Speed up to Reggio Calabria. It should be remembered that we are not in the Netherlands but in Sicily where the commercial speed on the railway network is still 24 km / h, with only half of the electrified sections and 105 km double-track. The contribution made by the construction of the bridge, in terms of savings on the rail route between Naples and Palermo, is negligible.
If the bridge is built, severe limits will be placed on the use of ferries and the relaunch of cabotage. The expenditure by the state will lead to the renounce to carry out much more important and urgent works:
• Railways: from the strengthening and connection of the Tyrrhenian network with Taranto and Bari, from the strengthening of the connections between Catania, Messina and Palermo, to the adaptation of very old lines such as Palermo-Agrigento and Ragusa-Catania.
• Port: with the strengthening of connections and structures in the port areas of Messina, Palermo, Trapani, Catania, Villa San Giovanni, Gioia Tauro and Taranto.
• Roads: from the adaptation of the Jonica state road to the completion of the connections to the A3 in Calabria, from the completion of the Palermo-Messina, to the adaptation of the connections between Catania, Syracuse and Gela.
In short, after the bridge, goodbye adjustment of the works of the South.
Travel times –
Let’s now make another evaluation which, coincidentally, is not secondary. What is the difference between travel times without and with the Bridge.
The answer is quite easy, considering a time to ferry of 20-25 minutes and an accessory time of another 15-20 minutes, for the queues, getting on and off the ferries, it goes towards the average 40 minutes.
With the construction of the bridge there would obviously be a considerable saving; to cross it with an average speed of 60 km it would take just under 4 minutes with a saving of 36 minutes.
Here, of course, most would say that the work would bring a considerable time advantage, but all this becomes so relative when you think that to travel the distance from Palermo to Messina by car it takes about 2h and 37 min which pass at about 3h on the train. Obviously we are not talking about the people who have to move from Trapani or Agrigento; here we enter the grotesque. From Agrigento to get to Messina it takes an average of 5h while from Trapani … forget it.
The truth is that the construction of the bridge would unite two points of Sicily and Calabria but would leave everything as before within Sicily and Calabria.
We consider, for those who do not live in Sicily, that most of the secondary roads are now almost non-existent, not passable by large means of transport (such as trucks and trucks) and with an isolation of agricultural and artisanal activities that the proponents of the Bridge over the Strait instead they exalt.
Today, entire Sicilian activities in inland areas (which are larger than one thinks) are isolated, without connections (sometimes not even accessible by agricultural tractors). In short, a cross-section that public opinion is never told that Sicilians know well.
To conclude, we consider that from the papers of the final project of 2010 it emerged that the fully operational bridge would have been at a loss, by admission of the designers themselves, because the railway traffic was absolutely insufficient and the road traffic estimated was only 11% of the total capacity of the ‘infrastructure. The bridge would also rise in one of the areas at greatest seismic risk in the Mediterranean, rich in biodiversity and with a delicate territorial balance.
Environmental sustainability of the work –
The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) presented by the designers has never convinced and, frankly, shows all the limits of this increasingly inadequate assessment tool, with its procedures, to demonstrate the sustainability of a work (especially as the Bridge on the narrow), its relations with the territory and the mitigation criteria.
Among other things, an EIA that focuses on the emissions factor with a series of merit analyzes but which omits the ecological and environmental effects and, above all, its mitigations in a work that involves not only the Strait area but the two connection areas namely Sicily and Calabria.
Planners and urban planners have long known how great works create great connections between distant centers and incredible emptying of intermediate places; among other things, the issues covered by the EIA did not take into consideration the rural dynamism, which has always been a daughter almost disowned by many EIAs.
In fact, it should be remembered that a commercial exchange or its speeding up have a significant influence on rural production systems and their communities.
A bridge that brings you the products of Europe at home would aggravate even more the imbalance of prices (already collapsing for many farms) to the detriment of our business realities which, in terms of morphology, size, characteristics can never compete ( in terms of costs but not of quality) with a French or German company or from the Po Valley.
And the opposite is not true, that is, that our products would find new markets, because most of our companies do not have road connections or something that could take this semblance to connect them with the Bridge.
In short, an entry of greater quantity and lower price of products beyond the bridge and a further difficulty of our farms or artisans, especially in the internal areas.
Result? An incredible impact in social but also ecological terms, with the emptying of the countryside, their degradation, just as the Farm to Fork, issued by the European Union on 20 May 2020, praises agroecology, the affirmation of transformative economies, to the principle of the Circular Economy and their different dynamics. Systems of growth and well-being based on concepts very distant from the criteria adopted by the Environmental and Economic Evaluations of that capitalist and colonialist economy lasts to die.
The Bridge over the Strait would be a perfect work in a “perfect” Sicily but Sicily by grace received is not perfect. It is made up of all those imperfections: different valleys, landscapes and sunsets, traditions, dialects, cultures, philosophies of life, economies, and so on, which make it a continent; a continent that does not need to be connected but to be interconnected.
In this interconnection we can grow, make new history, be an example, within the Mediterranean, also for all those peoples and territories that are waiting for history to write a new way of connecting peoples and their economies. Recognizing that identity that someone continually tries to flatten with his wicked wisdom. That colonialism that has destroyed and continues to destroy peoples, territories, cultures, traditions, knowledge.