Upgrading the regulations for bridge constructions

The regulatory criteria for how to construct bridges in Europe are limiting the possibilities that railway bridges may carry. In2Track3 is developing suggestions for how change these too conservative regulations.

Pedro Aires Montenegro, University of Porto.

The criteria for how European railway bridges must be built are out of date. Updating the regulations could lead to a more efficient railway system where both new and present bridges will become more cost efficient.

“Adapting the criteria with the knowledge on how to build safe bridges we have today will open up for making bridges a realistic alternative in much of future railway planning. Bridges are particular important on high-speed railways to guarantee longer straight railway lines. This can make a huge impact for both present and future bridges” says Pedro Aires Motenegro, research leader of Workpackage 5 at the In2Track3 partner University of Porto.

Results from In2Track3 indicate that it is fully possible to update the criteria without jeopardizing safety. Knowledge on how to build bridges in a safe way has improved the recent years and have made the present criteria holding the development back.

A change in the criteria will have clear environmental impact, since the project’s research shows that safe and robust bridges can be achieved with much less material, such as steel and concrete, than the criteria of today demand.

“There is a great overuse of material due to the present criteria. Sometimes when a newly built bridge in fact is robust enough for use, even more concrete and steel must be added just to fulfil the criteria. Moreover, some existing bridges that were designed before the current codes do not comply with the current normative criteria and need, sometimes, to be reinforced just for fulfilling these conservative limits, which worries the European Infrastructure Managers”, says Pedro Aires Montenegro.

To upgrade these criteria would thus lead to less of a cost to build bridges. This is not only of great value for landscapes with much mountains and waters. Bridges can also be used to keep a straight line, which is of great value for high-speed trains. Cheaper bridges can also compete with the embankments that are standard in regular railways, which may open for more bridge-based railroad in general.

A goal for the project is now to reach regulatory bodies and provide them with the knowledge needed for an update of the regulations.

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