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Venice’s new £4m Grand Canal bridge injures tourists

Written by editor

The 10 tourists were treated after tripping on the steps on the 94-metre long Constitution Bridge, designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, which opened on September 11.

The 10 tourists were treated after tripping on the steps on the 94-metre long Constitution Bridge, designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, which opened on September 11.

Pedestrians who lost their footing have blamed the bridge’s irregularly spaced steps, some of which act as viewing points, and the disorienting optical effect of the sectioned stone and glass flooring.

“People miss a step and then they come and moan at us,” a police guard on 24-hour security watch told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

Paolo Pennarelli, one of the city’s doctors, suggested the accidents were partly due to tourists looking at the bridge’s views over the city rather than paying attention to their feet.

“We have quite a lot of this type of accident every week. In Venice, falls like this are natural,” he said.

Venice city council has asked the architect for solutions for the problem, but has so far ruled out closing the bridge for structural modifications.

“We’ll intervene with some sort of signalling system for distracted tourists, perhaps with stickers on the ground,” Salvatore Vento, Venice’s head of public works, told Corriere.

The high tech steel and glass bridge has been dogged by controversy ever since its design was unveiled, which has been criticised for delays and cost overruns.

The bridge links Venice’s railway station with Piazzale Roma, a car, bus and ferry terminal on the opposite side of the Grand Canal.

The bridge is the fourth over the lagoon city’s Grand Canal and the city’s first new bridge in 70 years.

The official opening day of the bridge had to be kept secret after opposition councillors threatened to disrupt its inauguration, saying the new bridge was “a monument to bad administration and a waste of Venice’s money”.

National Alliance councillors have long claimed that the cost of the project has spiralled out of control due to planning errors and have pointed out that there is still no disabled access over the bridge.

Plans for the bridge were announced in 1996 and the structure was installed last summer – two years late – amid fears that the canal banks wouldn’t be able to hold it up properly.

In February Venice Mayor Massimo Cacciari had to dismiss fears that the bridge might be shaky after a local newspaper quoted project chief Roberto Casarin as saying it had moved “about a centimetre” in a load-bearing trial.

Other alterations to the original plan included the decision to add stairs, in order to make the structure more visible to tourists, and to use two kinds of stone instead of one.

Former culture undersecretary and art critic Vittorio Sgarbi said he didn’t like it and described it as “unnecessary” and it hid the Venice skyline from Piazzale Roma.

“It looks like a lobster,” he said. “Calatrava is a very nice man but Venice has no need of another bridge.”