Does Venice Really Need Underwater High-speed Rail to the Airport and a Massive Sports Complex?

What possible benefits could accrue to the city from a plan that first erases the habitat of Tessera, while locating the sporting facilities for “urban regeneration” over seven kilometers from the nearest city neighborhoods?

By Franco Migliorini

The pressures aimed at distorting both the contents and the approval procedures for two projects, the “Bretella-Cappio” (an underwater high-speed railway connection from the Airport to Venice) and the “Bosco dello Sport” (a massive Sports complex kilometers away from the city), cannot be allowed to pass under the silence of public opinion. These two expensive projects, both intended to be built at Tessera, are being planned to be constructed entirely at the public’s expense, and both foresee using funds from the PNRR (the National Recovery and Resilience Program). The deliberate intent is to impose a radical transformation of the northeastern corner of the Venetian territory, driven by special interests who call them strategic choices that are in the public interest.

On one hand there is the railway connection with Marco Polo Airport (the “Bretella-Cappio”), which would route high-speed trains from Tessera to Venice via a deep underground tunnel, under groundwater and under rivers, to free up space for a second railway that has never been planned or designed. This second railway would be a desirable asset for the Olympics in 2026, but it is certain that even if things went well, at that date there would still only be a building site.

With Italia Nostra’s strong lawsuit against the Cappio still pending at the TAR in Lazio, RFI decided to go ahead anyway with assigning the railway contract, to a company that has tranquilly declared that it has already been in contact with many local subcontractors. As if to say: there is plenty for everyone! The TAR needs to consider this carefully before ruling.

On the other hand, with the lexical innovation “Bosco dello Sport”, the Venice Government is peddling a vast suburban center of sporting event facilities to the city, brazenly diverting funds from the PNRR to this project – money that is specifically earmarked for “urban regeneration”. The site they have chosen, however, is a low, rural area, subject to flooding and thus long uninhabited.

There is nothing urban there to regenerate. Here too, an impossible date of 2026 has been set for the completion of work, in this case due to requirements of the PNRR funds themselves.

There is no truth in all these ritual declarations of public interest. In fact, the new rail line is really intended to double the number of passengers arriving in the city, ostensibly to “revitalize” Venetian tourism, as if this was the main problem for a city that has the highest rate of concentration of urban tourism in Europe.

The most credible element seems only to be the risk of financial failure.

The millions estimated to fund these projects amount to 644 million for the Cappio and 392 million for the Bosco, an expenditure in excess of 1 billion Euros. The final balance, though, will be on another order altogether, because there is no way that both projects can meet a completion date of 2026. Hence the risk of losing the European funds.

What possible benefits could accrue to the city from a plan that first erases the habitat of Tessera, while locating the sporting facilities for “urban regeneration” over seven kilometers from the nearest city neighborhoods?

The true beneficiary of these projects will certainly not be the Venetian community. Instead, public money will flow to a regional hinterland to finance interests and plans that do not consider Venice to be a city as much as a tourist hub to be augmented with facilities for sporting events and entertainment. This is the market that the Venice Administration and SAVE are both looking towards. They are both promoters of the business-oriented vision that inspires these projects, and they are both willing to distort language and procedures to any extent necessary to divert the public’s money to fund their goals.

So, to repeat, these projects must not be allowed to pass under the silence of public opinion.

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Franco Migliorini is an architect who lives in Venice. He has been a researcher at IUAV and a professor at Ca’ Foscari. He was President of the Istituto nazionale di Urbanistica for Veneto and the Italian Representative to the European Council for Urban Planning. Author of essays and books, he has recently been writing about tourism, publishing opinion pieces in NorthEastern Italian news outlets.

 


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