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Galecopper Bridge, Utrecht, Netherlands

Galecopper Bridge – retrofitting Netherlands’ second busiest bridge

A growing number of road authorities and operators are grappling with ageing infrastructure: roads and bridges require continuous maintenance to address wear and tear amid raising traffic volumes. The retrofit of bridge components is an effective solution to extend the service life of bridges and ensure the structure is safe for use.

The Galecopper Bridge, one of the Netherlands’ pivotal arteries over the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal near Utrecht, has experienced an increase in heavy freight and car traffic volumes over recent years. With daily traffic currently exceeding 220,000 vehicles, Galecopper is the second busiest bridge in the country after Rotterdam’s Van Brienenoord Bridge.  

Built in the 1970s, the 326-metre-long bridge consists of two parallel steel cable-stayed bridges which carry the A12 motorway as it stretches from The Hague towards the German border. 

Due to the steady increase in traffic loads, Galecopper’s southbound locked coil cables are quickly coming of age. Having worked with Rijkswaterstaat on the design of a bridge retrofit programme between 2013-2015, Arup devised a scheme to replace the current locked coil cables through a new parallel strand system. Harnessing our digital skills, we are currently supervising the ongoing cable replacement. Both the earlier retrofit and the current replacement scheme seek to maintain and prolong the lifespan of the bridge, while reducing embodied carbon emissions.

Project Summary

2nd busiest bridge in the Netherlands

326 mlong

30 year bridge lifespan extension

Renovation of steel bridges in the Netherlands

For over 15 years, Arup has been collaborating with RWS to renovate and extend the life of bridges across the Netherlands, enhancing operational safety. Our experts have supported RWS on a nationwide bridge repair programme by advising on the integration of circular economy principles into bridge retrofit practice.  

Galecopper is one of the eight bridges within the ageing infrastructure review programme. Our bridge specialists evaluated the bridge superstructure to identify what components may require a retrofit, as opposed to a traditional approach tackling the entire structure. The locked coil cables will be replaced by means of a strand-by-strand installation method that includes the placement of eight parallel strand cables alongside new saddles and anchor beams.  

This targeted repair solution will add a further 30 years to the bridge’s lifespan and help reduce embodied carbon emissions while minimising traffic disruption during construction. Galecopper will stay operational for the public during the cable replacement process, which will be completed in early 2024. 

Arup designed a cable replacement scheme for the Galecopper bridge that extends the bridge's lifespan and enables the continuous traffic flow during construction. ” Grietske van Bodegom Project Manager, Rijkswaterstaat

Harnessing digital tools for structural safety

Arup’s digital experts designed a monitoring system to track the bridge’s performance and ensure its structural integrity. Our online dashboard monitored the bypass bearing force and strain in real time to inform the predictive maintenance design for the cable replacement scheme. Arup’s team analysed the generated data to determine real traffic loads and to easily perform complex structural calculations.  

Besides Galecopper, our data gathering monitoring system was deployed on another four bridge repair programmes for RWS. Arup’s system provided a cost-effective solution to bridge management and enabled our client to identify current structure issues and anticipate future maintenance needs. 


galecopper bridge galecopper bridge

Reinforcing the bridge deck

In a major retrofit between 2013 and 2015, Arup and joint venture partners Royal HaskoningDHV and Greisch have worked on the strengthening of the Galecopper’s orthotropic bridge deck as a technical manager, site engineer, project and contract manager and managing contractor. 

The bridge deck was raised to meet the new standards for navigation on the Rhine as well as strengthened with a layer of high-strength concrete (HSC) to carry the ever-increasing traffic load. 

Two steel box girders installed alongside the full length of the bridge reinforce the deck structure, enhancing the bridge stiffness to further relieve traffic loads. Our specialists measured the shape of the strengthening beams and girders to calculate the camber and ensure a ‘perfect match’ between the new parts and the existing structure. The 1500 tonne girders were connected to the structure in a spectacular jacking operation. This manoeuvre pushed the bridge deck upwards by 250mm to allow the passage of bigger ships through the Amsterdam-Rhine canal.

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Arup collaborates with architects, developers and the public sector to shape ambitious, pragmatic and enduring infrastructure, from the asset level such as bridges to broader transformation programmes that improve the way people live and work. Find out more about our bridge design and engineering services here.