Autostrade and Italian motorway lobby say highway tunnels are safe

MILAN (Reuters) – The main Italian motorway lobby group AISCAT and Atlantia’s toll road unit, Autostrade per l’Italia, said on Friday that highway tunnels in the country were safe, denying media reports that 200 passages were at risk.

“There are no 200 tunnels at risk,” AISCAT said in a statement, adding that delays in some work required by the European Union on fire safety rules for the passages did not create structural risks.

Autostrade said in a separate statement it was working on or had already completed work on 90% of the tunnels in its network to make them comply with recently introduced fire safety rules.

This work has nothing to do with the structural safety of the passages, the company said.

Autostrade and the government are locked in a dispute over the possible revocation of the group’s motorway concession, following the deadly collapse of a motorway bridge in Genoa in 2018 that killed 43 people and exposed the dire state of much of Italy’s roadway infrastructure.

On Dec. 30 of last year, a block of concrete fell from the ceiling of a highway tunnel operated by Autostrade in northwestern Italy, without harming any vehicle.

After the incident, prosecutors in Genoa opened a new line of investigation into the safety controls on Autostrade’s highway tunnels, one source with knowledge of the probe told Reuters on Friday. Autostrade was not immediately available to comment.

This is the fourth line of investigation involving the company, in addition to a probe over the collapse of the Genoa bridge, another one over alleged falsified safety reports on several motorway bridges and yet another one into motorway safety barriers.

(Reporting by Francesca Landini and Emilio Parodi in Milan; Editing by Matthew Lewis)