Almost four years after the collapse of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, the trial against those allegedly responsible began on Thursday.

Because of the accident that killed 43 people, 59 people have to answer in court in Genoa, including high-ranking representatives of the motorway operator Autostrade per l'Italia (Aspi) and the construction company Spea, as well as officials from the Ministry of Infrastructure.

The accused are charged with negligent homicide, impairment of road safety and invoice falsification, among other things.

The process is expected to take two to three years.

Victim lawyer Raffaele Caruso told the AFP news agency that, given the extent of the accident at the time and the number of suspects, it was "one of the most important trials in recent Italian history".

Among other things, the question is whether the bridge has been adequately maintained and its condition adequately checked.

"The Morandi Bridge was a timed bomb," prosecutor Walter Cotugno pointed out.

"You could hear the ticking, but you didn't know when it was going to explode."

There is no doubt that the leaders of the highway operator and the construction company were aware of this risk, said Cotugno.

However, they would have resisted the necessary work on the bridge in order to "secure the dividends" for the shareholders.

Businesses approach families

The companies themselves escaped a lawsuit through an out-of-court settlement, according to which they have to pay the state 29 million euros because of the accident.

The motorway operator paid more than 60 million euros to the families of the victims, only two families did not accept this agreement.

The almost 1,200-meter-long motorway bridge collapsed on August 14, 2018 during heavy rain over a length of more than 200 meters, pulling dozens of vehicles down with it.

43 people lost their lives.

Pictures of the collapse went around the world.

The accident also highlighted the dilapidated state of Italy's transport infrastructure.

The bridge spanned dozens of train tracks and a commercial area with buildings and factories.

At the time of the accident, maintenance work was being carried out on the structure.

Shortly thereafter, the engineering website "ingegneri.info" called the accident a "predictable tragedy".

There have always been "structural doubts" about the construction of the engineer Riccardo Morandi, according to whose plans the bridge was built from 1963 to 1967.

Demolition was considered as early as 2009, but the bridge was too important for car traffic.

The building was part of the so-called flower highway A10, an important traffic axis on the Italian Riviera that is also used by numerous tourists and connects Genoa with Ventimiglia on the French border.

25 million cars crossed the Morandi Bridge every year.

Keywords: