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After two deadly accidents, Italy wants to renationalise its roads

Do private companies care more about profits than safety?

To own one crumbling road may be regarded as a misfortune. To own two looks like carelessness.

What it means: Italy decided to sell off - privatise, if you want to use the technical term - a bunch of its roads in 1999. 51% of them were bought by the Benetton family empire. Ever been in the clothes shop United Colours of Benetton? These are the same people. Yeah, we’re not sure how you go from jumpers to motorways either.

Current Italian politicians are accusing the former knitwear brand of having a rather woolly grasp of how to manage roads after several tragic accidents. A bridge they owned collapsed last month, killing 43 people. The government says it wasn’t properly maintained. Five years before that, an apparently rusty guardrail was responsible for the deaths of forty people in a coach crash.

Italy’s deputy prime minister has now said that the ‘only solution’ is to renationalise the roads by forcing the business to sell them back to the government. The logic is that the government cares more about making people happy - and voting for them - than making huge profits, so they won’t cut any corners that could compromise safety.

Not everyone agrees with that. As the chief executive of the disgraced company points out, his business spent about €30 million more on the roads each year than the government used to when it last owned them.

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