Over the years, a certain dominant, and often acritical, view of infrastructure has come to the fore. According to this way of thinking, major works are always a good thing and emergency legislation is necessary in order to avoid or circumvent restrictions and delays.
The use of emergency legislation in Italy has, however, not brought the desired results, as the proportion of planned projects that have been effectively completed shows. In fact, too many projects have been drawn up, without deciding which were really useful and of strategic importance, against a regulatory backdrop that has led to a reduction in safeguards and rising costs.
What we need are better quality designs, which, together with more demanding pre-qualification requirements and stricter forms of contractual risk transfer provision, will enable us to arrive at a “fixed price” during tenders; a fixed price that cannot be increased once work has begun. A more transparent system would benefit the better companies, best equipped to carry out the necessary works, without the continual need to renegotiate with the contractor after the contract has been awarded.
We now need to have the courage to make a collective effort to clear away excessive and unnecessary legislation and ensure that ordinary laws can work: the transposition of the EU public contracts directive into Italian law is a unique opportunity to radically simplify the system.
It is the role of government to take the right decisions with the aid of competent experts, involving local communities and based on cost-benefit analyses and assessments of the impact on the competitiveness of the productive system and of the country’s tourist offering. It is essential to have in place a properly thought-out national infrastructure plan, taking into account the fact that in Italy we need to realise that the real gap to be bridged relates to our intangible infrastructure (just think of the delays in the rollout of broadband). We need to improve our “logistics of ideas and people” more than our freight logistics, although we also need to boost our competitiveness in the field of tourism and improve urban transport.
At Atlantia, we have always done our best to make use of ordinary procedures. An example relates to environmental protection, a key factor influencing the Company’s decision-making and taken into account alongside all other concerns throughout the process, from design through to construction, operation and management of the infrastructure. Anyone building infrastructure has a responsibility to minimise the impact on the environment, engaging the affected communities in a public debate.
We took this approach in Genoa when planning the city’s new motorway bypass. We were the first in Italy to conduct public consultations. It was worth the effort, as it enabled us to receive approval for the design from the Services Conference in less than 100 days, an undisputed record. This shows how one can apply ordinary laws in order to achieve the necessary consensus for the construction of infrastructure.
Our belief in this kind of approach has led us to join together with the Bocconi University in creating a “centre for strategic thinking”, the Infrastructure Lab. This has resulted in a “Manifesto for a new infrastructure culture” (see link), a document that sets out, in nine points, the steps we need to take in order to ensure that the sector develops in the right direction.
The idea came to life three years ago when, together with the then Rector of the Bocconi University, Guido Tabellini, we began thinking about an infrastructure laboratory to conduct research, with the aim of contributing to the development of a new culture and awareness of infrastructure, with an international focus.
Thanks to the project launched with the Bocconi University and the online forum, “Infrastructure Channel”, we aim to contribute to the creation of a modern vision of the strategic role played by infrastructure.