Mosel bridge essentially 'unstable'

14 Apr 2014 by Jancis Robinson

Sarah Washington, tireless campaigner against the Mosel bridge (click on the tag at the end of the article), reports that an astonishing film report was aired on SWR Landesschau Rheinland-Pfalz last Friday 11 April 2014. It was called Hochmoselbrücke nicht standsicher (High Mosel Bridge not stable) and you can see it here.

This is Sarah's translation of what was said in the film. (Please note that DIN is the German Institute for Standardisation.)

Voiceover: Is the construction of the High Mosel Bridge not being played with open cards? Georg Laska of the citizens' initiative Pro-Mosel has had this suspicion for years. He believes that the ministry responsible for it has covered up problems concerning the stability of the bridge. That's why we meet with him on site, because he wants to show us an explosive memo from the Ministry of Economics which was leaked to him.

Markus Grewe (journalist): What does this memo mean to you?

Laska: Well, we now have it for the first time in black and white that proof of the stability of the bridge cannot be provided.

VO: In the paper that is shown in public for the first time today on Landesschau Rheinland-Pfalz it literally says: (On screen quote) 'The building cannot be constructed according to the relevant DIN standards for the foundations, since building ground safety cannot be established.' In plain language: the stability of the bridge over at the Ürzig slope is not guaranteed. Awkwardly, this statement comes from the State Agency for Geology and Mining, which is precisely the technical authority who should know. Only now does it emerge how clearly the state geologists warned the Ministry before the building of the bridge. Following a construction meeting held at the end of last year, it is on record that the construction of the bridge is held to be too risky. (On screen quote) 'Overall, it remains doubtful whether a robust risk assessment can be carried out at all due to the current findings.'

Laska: Yes, naturally we feel vindicated, now that we actually have the information that what has been said for years about this being a problem is really true.

VO: Since the beginning of the year the bridge construction site has been in the headlines. It transpired that the head of the State Agency for Geology, Professor Ehses, had brought the stability of the planned bridge into question. The Ministry issued a gagging order, he was not allowed to say anything further on the subject. Nevertheless we go to Mainz and want to talk to him. DIN standards that are not being met, that doesn't sound good. But the Ministry will still not approve an interview; the timing is wrong, we should wait for further groundwater investigations. (On screen quote) 'Therefore neither the Ministry of Economics nor the State Agency for Geology and Mining will currently comment on that.'

Laska: Yes, it is quite amazing that one can only learn about such information in a roundabout way, because the Ministry keeps a tight hold on it and does not inform the public. There still seem to be some secrets, and we would really like to know: what actually is going on here?

VO: So would we. After all, the construction of the bridge will cost at least 375 million euros. At 1,700 metres long, it should eventually connect the Hunsrück and Eifel with each other, high above the Mosel Valley. But will it ever happen? In our search for answers we meet with Professor Edmund Krauter, the former deputy head of the State Agency for Geology. He knows the landslide slope on which the Ministry would like to build the bridge just as well as Professor Ehses. He openly confirmed to us what the director of the State Agency for Geology is currently not allowed to tell us.

Grewe: Exactly how suitable is this slope for the bridge?

Krauter: It is actually not suitable at all, this is the most unfortunate place that you could choose. I was very surprised when I learned that here at this point the bridge should be built, because I knew that the slope is unstable. And I fully support the statement by Professor Ehses from the State Agency for Geology, because the slope is unstable and it is hazardous to build a bridge here. It is simply about the stability of the pillars, i.e. if the slope is moving, then of course the pillars will move.

VO: The Ministry is coming under increasing pressure for an explanation. Now it has to drill measuring points 100 metres deep in the landslide to clarify: how does the groundwater impact down there on the stability of the slope? The investigation will cost the Ministry nearly a quarter of a million euros, there's a lot riding on it. We want to know how much from a geology expert, so we go to Ingelheim to Johannes Feuerbach. The expert tells us: if the bridge cannot be built to DIN standards, the High Mosel Bridge hangs in the balance.

Feuerbach: All engineers, all builders of earthworks and foundations in construction work must comply with DIN standards. There are security margins which are given in advance and these margins have to be observed. If I realise that these security margins are not reached, then I may not build. And if anyone does build in this situation, then that is in fact irresponsible.

Laska: We don't know whether the bridge can ever stand safely. What's going on is practically a Russian roulette.

VO: Our impression is that it is time for the Ministry to now finally lay the cards on the table.

Tags:  Mosel bridge
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