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

Extending bridge life by 30 years

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

Arup, together with RHDHV and Greisch, have worked together over the past ten years to deliver the strengthening design and engineering solutions for this repair programme. Our joint venture has delivered a sustainable remediation programme, from design and contract preparation through to managing implementation.

Future-proofing steel bridges with cost-effective upgrades

Over the past ten years the programme has future-proofed six landmark steel bridges. We have worked on 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.

Every bridge is unique and needs a custom solution. Our expertise in bridge design and our experience in their build means we can compare maintenance strategies against possible replacement for an optimal, cost-effective solution for each bridge.

One key aspect of the renovation programme has been the extensive upgrade of road surfaces to allow for heavier traffic and higher axle loads. Orthotropic bridges, steel deck systems stiffened with steel ribs, have been reinforced with High Strength Concrete (HSC) for a stronger, more cohesive deck. Some bridges have also been upgraded to meet current standards and requirements, including adapting the height of the bridge to allow for ship navigation underneath.

Making the most of the renovation budget

Economic viability is always an important factor in capital programmes, and an area of particular expertise for Arup. One example of our long-term thinking is the Suurhoff bridge. This was due to be upgraded, but will now be replaced by a bridge combining rail and car transit to realise a more efficient use of the budget.
We have provided all the technical management activities, including developing the renovation design, supervising inspections and delivering the implementation specifications across the entire bridge renovation scheme. Our bridge engineers are also responsible for the technical assessments during the contract selection process and, together with RWS, overseeing technical supervision during the implementation.

Digital design and monitoring tools enable critical infrastructure upgrades 

We have developed a unique bridge information model to enable the exchange, storage and management of knowledge between stakeholders at all stages of the project. Our 3D models also help the working team to visualise advanced calculations and enable advanced static and fatigue modelling for different scenarios. The expertise and knowledge we acquire during the ongoing bridge renovation programme is then used to design new bridges.

Renovation of eight steel bridges
Watch the 'Renovation of Eight Steel Bridges' film.

Data automation makes bridge performance monitoring easier

As part of our renovations we have developed a real-time sensor system to monitor the performance of bridge components in real time and enable the client to better calculate remaining service life. By analysing large data sets from measurements on the bridge and the traffic that crosses the bridge, Rijkswaterstaat can now schedule maintenance and use available resources more efficiently.

Find out more about how digital shapes our approach to asset management

Developing innovative techniques to improve bridge performance

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 for a longer service life. These solutions optimally match the current problems bridges experience and contribute to the overall approach we have taken to bring the whole programme to life.