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Brienenoordbrug, one of the steel bridges being renovated. © dswilbrink, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=54354563; Brienenoordbrug, one of the steel bridges being renovated. © dswilbrink, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=54354563;

Rijkswaterstaat bridge renovations, Netherlands

Bridge to the future: design solutions extend Dutch steel bridges lifespan by 30 years

As physical and strategic links, bridges are a key component of any country’s infrastructure, enabling the seamless flow of people and goods throughout the transport network. In the Netherlands, around 200 bridges built in the 1950s-60s are suffering from potential fatigue, under pressure from ever increasing traffic and heavier truck loads.

To combat bridge fatigue and ensure ongoing operational safety, the Dutch roads authority Rijkswaterstaat has undertaken a long-term bridge maintenance and refurbishment programme that will extend their service life by about 30 more years.

Arup, together with RHDHV and Greisch have been working together over the past ten years to deliver strengthening design and engineering solutions for this nationwide bridge repair programme. The joint venture has delivered this sustainable remediation programme, working from the design stage and contract preparation all the way to managing its implementation.

Future-proofing steel bridges: cost-effective infrastructure upgrades

Over the past ten years, the programme has future-proofed six landmark steel bridges including the Muiderbrug between Diemen and Muiden, the Boogbrug at Beek, Scharbergbrug at Elsloo, the Kreekrakbrug connecting Zeeland-Noord-Brabant, Galecopperbrug in Utrecht and Tacitusbrug near Ewijk. In Rotterdam, the renovation design of the Van Brienenoord Bridge is ready for implementation.

While every bridge is unique and requires customisation, our expertise in bridge design and execution enables us to compare maintenance strategies against possible replacement to achieve optimal, cost-effective solutions for every type of bridge.

Project Summary


30 year lifespan extension

10year programme

6bridges updated so far

A key aspect of the steel bridges renovation programme so far has been the extensive upgrade of the road surface to endure heavier traffic and higher axle loads. The orthotropic bridges, a steel deck system stiffened with steel ribs, have been reinforced with High Strength Concrete (HSC) to create a stronger, more cohesive deck. Some bridges have also been upgraded to meet current standard and requirements, including adapting the height of the bridge to allow for fluvial navigation underneath.

Economic viability has also been an important consideration: take Suurhoff bridge, where plans for an upgrade have been cancelled in favour of a cheaper new replacement bridge combining rail and car transit.

Arup is delivering all the technical management activities, including developing the renovation design, supervising inspections and delivering the implementation specifications. Our bridge engineers are also responsible for the technical assessments during the contract selection process and, together with RWS, are carrying out the technical supervision during the implementation.

The Galecopper Bridge is one of the busiest bridges in the Netherlands with more than 210,000 vehicles passing over it per day. © snowwhite

Digital design and monitoring tools enable critical infrastructure upgrade 

Arup has developed a Bridge Information Model (BIM), enabling the exchange, storage and management of knowledge between all the stakeholders at all stages of the project. The 3D models also help the working team to visualise advanced calculations, and enable advanced static and fatigue modelling under different scenarios. The expertise and knowledge acquired during the ongoing bridge renovation programme is then used to design new bridges.

Insight into the (fatigue) behaviour of steel bridges was crucial for this extensive renovation programme. Leveraging our bridge expertise, local knowledge and international network, we have successfully designed and supervised these complex renovations. ” Sabine Delrue Sabine Delrue Business Unit Leader Infrastructure

During the renovations, the bridges are made safer, sustainable, quieter and easier to maintain. The use of a real-time sensor system, which can monitor the use of objects in real time, enables the team to calculate remaining service life. By analysing large data sets from measurements on the bridge and the traffic that crosses the bridge, we can predict and plan in maintenance and use available resources more efficiently. Furthermore, innovative reinforcement techniques have been developed that can be applied as an alternative for High Strength Concrete (HSB). This consists of reinforcements with steel plates in combination with epoxy and the development of Fibre Reinforced Polymers.

We have developed and applied standard solutions for the most common issues, including welding improvement techniques to increase a bridge’s service life, trough reinforcements as a solution for cracks and repair for cover plate cracks with a long service life. These solutions optimally match the current problems in bridges.

Watch the 'Renovation of Eight Steel Bridges' film.