How is it that the bridges in the Netherlands are in such a bad condition? Should we be afraid of a disaster?

What does the questioner mean by “such a bad state”: We are critical of the quality of our heavily used infrastructure, so often preventive planned-and sometimes emergency repairs are carried out.If a bridge (whole or heavy traffic) is closed it is usually not because it is going to collapse so shortly ( ‘ Merwedebrug was almost collapsed, the Netherlands escaped disaster ‘ ) but because the safety margins have been exceeded and the time Measures.

Accidents like recently in Russia ( Russian bridge collapsed while truck is driving over it [+ video ) or Italy ( Bridge collapsed in city in Italy ) have been moded to us.The fact that disaster is happening elsewhere is of course not a guarantee of the quality of our bridges and viaducts, but on an international ranking of good infrastructure we are in the top 10: Quality of Infrastructure: Countries with Best Infrastructure 2018 | Statista

Read more with my colleagues from Rijkswaterstaat: Bridges | Rijkswaterstaat

The Netherlands has as a country with many rivers and canals and many roads, so also many bridges.Most highways and national roads are from after the Second World War. The Netherlands has seen relatively late a large turnout of car traffic (actually sixties).

There have been two periods of major expansion of the road network in the Netherlands.The first period is of the Sixties with the urban breakthroughs in which many houses have been demolished to make room for road traffic. The second period was around the late eighties, the early 1990s and a much smaller size.

This means that the Netherlands has relatively many bridges of a certain age.The Merwedebrug built in 1961 is such an example. Most of the tribes were from the late 1960s or early seventies. This means that the average age of many bridges is now above 55 years old. Although a well-maintained bridge can last for over 100 years, road maintenance and bridges over 35 years old are already costly. The estimation of the cost per square metre is above 5 euros per square metre, which is only road surface. That does not sound much, but is a gigantic amount for rijkswaterstaat to cough up annually, when you consider how many square metre bridge the Netherlands has. The exact square meter is not even well known. Even Rijkswaterstaat does not know exactly, with the risk that the number of square meters is higher and so the possibility that Rijkswaterstaat does not know exactly how much the joke is going to cost.

Bridges can last very long if well maintained, but it has been calculated that the usable life expectancy of bridges has a margin of 30 to 70 years old (see Extending the Life of Bridges).Most Dutch bridges are already closer to 70 years old, than at 30 years old. Although this still does not have to be a problem, this is a big problem in about 10 years, because then heavier and more expensive maintenance will play a role, where replacement of the entire bridge is in fact cheaper.

Remember that those 30 to 70 years is a margin. Remember there are also many railway bridges in the Netherlands often of the same age and their maintenance will probably fall under a new government body to be set up.

Rijkswaterstaat is working hard to replace many of these old bridges with new bridges or aquaducts, or to carry out extensive repairs.The latter is very costly. The problem is that the construction market in the Netherlands is currently being spanned. Housing construction has in some cases risen by 26% in costs, the same problem also plays in the construction of bridges. And do you remember the construction fraud affair from the late nineties? It does not look like Rijkswaterstaat will take this within 10 years. It does not seem that the budget will be adequate within that time. The same kind of problem also occurs at the embankment and also those sometimes have bridges. For example, the Afsluitdijk is not at Delta altitude.

Unfortunately, the Dutch Government has a hand to do with the maintenance and replacement time and to make a real catch up if the proverbial calf is drowned. See:

Storm Flood Zuiderzee (1916), 51 deaths

Flood Disaster (1953), 1836 deaths

Quay Fracture Wilnis (2003), No killing


Now yes, if only a bridge collapses, that’s not a disaster yet!Bridges are people’s work, and people’s work is not perfect.

Every bridge can collapse, there are valid probability accounts that are for the vast majority of bridges in NL many, many times better than you will ever win the postcode lottery.

The Dutch infrastructure is of very high quality.There will certainly be bridges that are in maintenance, some bridges have a maximum life span. After a few years you have to commit or replace very large-scale maintenance. But of bad condition is not there.

Sure it is dangerous. Here in America it is very bleak with the infra structure.

Leave a Reply