Italys chamber of deputies has voted in favour of blocking the project for the construction of the Messina bridge, which would have linked Sicily to mainland Italyat least for the time being.

The project was deemed "not a priority" by the majority of the members of parliament (272 against 234), who have decided to focus on other plans instead, such as the completion of the Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway and improvements to the Sicilian motorways and water supplies.

The building of the Messina bridge was Silvio Berlusconi's pet project also backed by Pier Ferdinando Casini's UDC (Christian Democrats). In the project's favour were the easier access it would give to Sicily, the 40 000 jobs it would create, the enhancement of Italy's image and the boost predicted for tourism.

The Northern League and the Greens have been strongly against the project. Among the concerns were environmental damages, potential mafia involvement and the very high cost of the project, estimated at over 4.6 billion.

If plans for the construction of the almost 4 km long-bridge had gone ahead, it would have been the longest suspension bridge ever built, 60 per cent longer than the Akashi-Kaikyo bridge in Japan, currently the longest bridge in the world at 1.9 metres.