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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 October 2006, 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK
Italy drops Sicily bridge plans
Computer simulation of Messina Straits bridge
The bridge has been lauded and criticised in equal measure
Italy has abandoned controversial plans to build a bridge between the country's mainland and the island of Sicily.

The structure would have crossed the Messina Straits, forming the world's longest single-span suspension bridge.

But Italian MPs voted to scrap the proposed construction, saying they had other priorities for Italy's impoverished southern island.

There were also concerns that organised crime networks could hijack the lucrative project.

A total of 272 MPs voted in favour of abandoning the bridge proposal, while 232 voted to continue.

Earthquake risk

The project had been promoted by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Two motions put forward by his centre-right Forza Italia party to keep the bridge project did not pass.

Map showing location of proposed bridge

News about the project, on the drawing board since the 1960s, was greeted with fury by centre-right deputies.

"Prodi's government is against Sicily," said Renato Schifani, a Sicilian member of parliament for Forza Italia.

"It wants to strike at our region, where the majority of voters opted for the right."

But many experts had warned that the vast project would inevitably enrich southern Italy's organised crime networks.

There were also fears that the bridge, some 4km (2.5 miles) in length, would not be capable of withstanding an earthquake.

The motion included proposals to spend some of the money set aside for the project, estimated at 4.4bn euros ($5.5bn; 2.9bn), on other transport improvements on the island, which has long been economically weaker than the mainland.

Sicily bridge constructor named
12 Oct 05 |  Business
Tender launched for Sicily bridge
15 Apr 04 |  Business
Sicilian bridge to go ahead
06 Jun 02 |  Europe

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