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Italy’s NOP infrastructure plan calls for €1.84 bn in spending

by Alessandro Arona

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Italy has destined €1.84 billion in spending for its recently-approved 2014-2020 National Operational Program (NOP), with €1.38 billion coming from the European Regional Development Fund and a co-financing deal worth €460.9 million euros (25% of the total).

The plan will focus on the underdeveloped regions of Basilicata, Campania, Calabria, Puglia, and Sicily, and its general objective is to “promote sustainable transport systems and eliminate bottlenecks on the central network infrastructure,” according to the government.

The NOP is an EU-backed spending program that is part of a broader European Cohesion Policy to promote growth in the 28-member bloc’s poorer regions.

The main goal is to strengthen rail lines in the South of Italy, especially the Naples-Bari corridor and the Palermo-Messina-Catania line in order to shorten train connection times between the metropolitan areas of Southern Italy and improve capacity and the shipment of goods and cargo. Railway investment makes up just under 60% of the NOP total.

The plan also focuses on improving the final connection of cargo ports and train lines to warehousing hubs in order to facilitate exchange between trucks, trains and ships.

About 30% of the funding is devoted to ports and logistical hubs. The NOP will give priority financing to shipping ports, particularly Gioia Tauro and Taranto in order to make them able to receive latest-generation cargo ships.The next priority is financing for the Naples-Salerno line and for Augusta, Sicily in order to improve intermodal freight traffic between ships and trains and Ro-Ro (roll on, roll off) traffic between ships and trucks.

The NOP aims to intervene ‘in the last mile’ and the transport lines to core logistical hubs: the ports of Augusta, Gioia Tauro, Naples, Taranto and the intermodal hubs of the Campania region (Marcianise and Nola) and of Bari, mostly where there are connections to rail lines.

The value of the NOP program of €1.84 billion is practically identical to the NOP Reti 2007-2013 (€1.832 billion), which must spend the money at its disposal by December 31st of this year.

The NOP for 20017-2013 began with a much higher endowment of €2.75 billion with the national government co-financing 50% of the total, but serious delays accumulated and forced the government of former Prime Minister Mario Monti to downsize it to €2.5 billion and finally ended with €1.8 billion because of a reduced co-finance deal of 25%(the minimum allowed).

Now the current executive order is forced to use a “retroactive projects” clause so as not to lose the 2007-2013 funding.

The delays of the old PON now allow (paradoxically) the new “Rete” (Network) program to commence with a set of projects and works in progress that are much more ‘developed' than they were in 2007, and therefore have more of a chance of being funded sooner.

Practically speaking, about €500 million of the €1.84 billion will be used to complete the projects included in the 2007-2013 NOP as part of the exit package of the old agenda.