Commentary. Those who expected innovative proposals now have to reckon with a disappointing draft, particularly with respect to the transport system, where the project of changing the historical Italian transport delays has been abandoned.

The Italian recovery plan leaves public transportation on the platform

The problem with the Italian recovery plan is not the six managers, or the composition of the steering committee, the presence of the parties or gender representation. After months of announcements, confidential meetings between ministers and large public companies, it turns out that there is a major political issue on the table: the inadequacy of a proposal which is far removed from what one would have expected.

Let’s remember that the Next Generation EU program provides unprecedented resources for our country, but for rebuilding better and differently, with innovation, sustainability, attention to social distress and inequalities that have grown in recent years. The states have the task of presenting plans capable of offering a vision to 2030 and proposals to be funded to get out of the crisis, recover from delays and innovate the economic and industrial system.

Those who expected innovative proposals now have to reckon with a document (circulated in recent days) which is disappointing, particularly with respect to the transport system, where the project of changing the historical Italian transport delays has been abandoned. The citizens of Southern Italy can forget about seeing a change in a situation that features single track lines, non-electrified, with very few trains in circulation.

We can also forget about carrying out a revolution in the cities, which would have made it possible, as in any normal European city, to give up owning a car or a motorbike in order to get around on a predictable timeframe, because in those cities one can count on an efficient public mobility service and on a well-developed network of bicycle lanes.

In the proposed plan, once again, the focus is on large infrastructure works with a list of high-speed railways, most of which are already financed, such as Turin-Lyon, Milan-Genoa, Naples-Bari. Almost 20 billion are allocated for these projects, compared to just 9 billion for the re-launch of the Italian health system, brought to its knees by the pandemic.

As always, the role of renewing cities is marginal, with the right line items—decarbonisation, renewal of the circulating fleet, reduction of the infrastructure gap—but with totally inadequate resources. However, it is in urban areas that we find a big part of the demand for mobility of people in Italy, as well as addressing pollution and emissions from transport.

On Friday, an agreement was made between European countries to bring the targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 from 40% up to 55%, and without a change in modes of transport, this challenge is impossible. For this reason, it is unbelievable that we are choosing to remain in continuity with the last twenty years, with the only difference being that there is no funding for new highways, airports or for the bridge over the Messina Strait, but only because European rules forbade it.

All with the unspoken promise that national resources will be used to fund such projects anyway. Could it be done differently? Certainly so, by choosing to use these extraordinary new resources to address the delays of the country, as well as moving the “ordinary” national resources from road to rail.

It would be enough if Prime Minister Conte or Minister De Micheli would talk with their French counterparts. Because in the French plan, the priority items concern urban renewal and green mobility, with well-targeted funding choices.

This situation really calls into question the political class, the government and the opposition parties. They must speak to the country, not so much about figures appointed, but about the merit of the proposals, about the vision that we want to pursue through European resources, going beyond the usual choices. It is certainly unacceptable to invoke the excuse that the problem is haste, that there is no time to open a debate on these proposals and that otherwise there will be problems with Brussels and delays in starting construction—on the same old types of projects. It is called Next Generation EU, so it must look to the next generation of Italians, not to protecting the usual interests.

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