Bridges are exposed to high stress throughout their entire service life. Therefore, bridges have to meet enormously stringent requirements to ensure reliable operation and low risks of failure. Infrastructure users throughout Europe trust that requirements are reliably met when they travel all across Europe by car or when goods are transported in all directions.
This means that clients and operators have to ensure not only good planning and construction processes but also the use and operation of bridges by applying suitable monitoring measures. Resilience and sustainability are the key words.
Thus, on 9 July 2020, the German EU Council Presidency hosted the European Bridge Forum at the Ministry in Berlin. Because of the corona pandemic, the event was held as a virtual web conference.
By adopting a New Mobility Approach, Germany intends to gear the transport system throughout Europe to sustainability and climate change mitigation and at the same time make investment in order to future-proof economies, businesses and jobs in the EU. For this purpose, Europe needs high-capacity and modern transport corridors and modern trans-European networks (TENs). During the COVID-19 pandemic, reliable supply chains are even more important than before, and they are not possible unless infrastructure and, in particular, bridges can be operated safely.
The key questions addressed by the conference were:
- What is the situation like in the countries of Europe?
- To what extent are the countries different and what do they have in common?
- What joint approaches can be explored and how can the digital revolution help here?
The participants, in common with the European Commission and Member States, were in agreement that we are about to embark on a new path together. With the European Commission's plans for the future, there are fundamental considerations taking place all across Europe that will bring Member States closer. Issues such as learning from one another and evolving commonalities in a targeted manner will determine the way forward. Digital inspection techniques and methods can make a major contribution to this by means of uniform technical standards.
The outcomes of the conference were as follows:
- In the future, there must be a greater focus on the load-bearing capacity of the bridges on the TEN-T and on measures to combat illegal overloading that causes damage to the structures.
- Requirements to be met by bridges in terms of climate change mitigation and resilience are of crucial importance.
- Basic common requirements to be met by the TEN-T with regard to bridges and their load-bearing capacity and serviceability should be developed.
- It is absolutely essential that research, especially into structures, be stepped up and better coordinated throughout the EU.
Information on the papers presented (in English) can be found at: https://bmvi-eu2020.de/european-bridge-forum/