Concern over state of Berlin’s bridges after figures show more than 40 have defects

Fears have been raised over the state of Berlin's bridge network following the tragic collapse of a motorway bridge in Genoa earlier this week.

Concern over state of Berlin's bridges after figures show more than 40 have defects
A worker inspects the area around the collapsed Morandi motorway bridge in Genoa on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

More than 40 bridges in Berlin have been classed as being in an “insufficient condition”, the Berliner Morgenpost reports. The Berlin Senate has moved to reassure people that the city’s 2085 bridges for road, pedestrian and cyclists are “very safe structures”.

It came as rescue workers continued to search through rubble to find survivors after a vast span of the Morandi bridge in Genoa, Italy, collapsed on Tuesday. At least 39 people have been killed and a further 16 injured.

Dorothee Winden, a spokeswoman for the Berlin Senate told the Berliner Morgenpost that there are regular inspections across the city and surrounding area, which means problems in the network are likely to be detected in good time.

Winden added that cracks or other tell-tale signs of damage are noted and acted on before a failure occurs. She said: “This allows us to intervene in a timely manner.”

To show how this warning system works, Winden pointed to the Salvador Allende Bridge in Köpenick. When the cracks got too big, the Senate ordered a full closure of the bridge section for trucks and cars.

Many Berliners may also remember the Frey Bridge in Spandau, which has now been replaced by a new construction. The bridge was closed to heavy trucks in early 2014. “Such measures reduce the risk of an unpredictable failure of a bridge to an absolute minimum,” Winden told the newspaper.

According to the Senate Traffic Administration of 2017, only 230 of the approximately 830 bridges maintained by the Senate are in very good or good condition. For 553 bridges, the condition is considered satisfactory or sufficient. The newspaper found that 42 bridges are in an insufficient condition.

The situation is similar with the 252 overpasses in Berlin, which are federally owned. Only one in five received the condition grade good or very good, while three quarters are in a satisfactory or sufficient condition.

Due to budget cuts in the past decades, there are concerns over the amount of money being spent to maintain the bridge and roads network in the area.

The transport policy spokesman for the AfD parliamentary group, Frank Scholtysek, said he had doubts over the view that Berlin's bridges are safe. He pointed to the five percent of highway bridges where the condition was rated 3.0 or worse by examiners. “That means the structures are not sufficiently built,” he said.

“After years of saving, Berlin is investing heavily in the renovation and new construction of bridges,” added Winden.

In the current year, 41.5 million euros and another 13.7 million euros will be available for 'Bundesbrücken' – the state-owned road bridges.

More than 20 bridges are currently being planned for longer-term repairs or replacement projects. Short-term repairs are also being made to around 100 bridges per year.

“The rehabilitation of bridges will continue to be a high priority over the next few years,” said Winden.

Meanwhile, we told yesterday how experts have warned that a bridge collapse in Germany 'could not be ruled out'. A report last March by the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) concluded that only 12.5 percent of Germany's motorway bridges were in good condition, while 12.4 percent were in poor condition.


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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.