800 bridges in France are “at risk of collapse”

The collapse of the Morandi bridge in Genoa has created concern in France over the state of the country’s bridges, about a third of which need repair or maintenance.

A report produced by the Ministry of Transport, published in July, has created unease over the state of the 12,000 bridges in the country’s highway network. According to the report, around 4,000 of them require some level of repair, but 840 are at risk of collapse in the medium term.

Christian Tridon, president of the National Union of Specialist Contractors, told the Franceinfo website, that the number as risk could be higher. He said: "These 7% are bridges that we have evaluated, but there are all the others that we do not monitor. And if we do not go see them, we cannot know what state they are in."

He added that, as well as the major bridges in the study, there are another 180,000 minor structures, one for every 5km of road.

The ministry is proposing an increase in its bridge repair budget to tackle the problem. In 2017, this was set at €700m, rising to €800m in 2018. Dominique Bussereau, the former transport minister, told French television that a figure of €1.3bn was need to bring the bridges up to standard.

The ministry reassured French travellers that there was no immediate danger of a repeat of the Genoese tragedy. It said that structures labelled as being in a "poor condition" may contain some degraded elements, but were still safe. It said: "For example, there is a bridge that has been declared in poor condition for acoustic problems, but which does not weaken the structure itself."

Two Swiss engineers are presently employed by the ministry to go through the inspection reports on the 12,000 bridges to identify the ones most in need of action.

Image: The Pont Saint-Bénezet in Avignon, destroyed by a crusade in the 13th century and by flooding in the 18th century

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