Nearly 600 traffic bridges in North Rhine-Westphalia ‘have to be repaired’

In order to cope with the increasing flow of traffic, the majority of bridges in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia are in urgent need to repair, according to the state's transport ministry.

Nearly 600 traffic bridges in North Rhine-Westphalia 'have to be repaired'
The Fleher Bridge, which is being closed to traffic from Wednesday evening through Monday. Photo: DPA

The Fleher Bridge crosses the Rhine river and connects the western German cities of Düsseldorf and Neuss together. It is indispensable for the 85,000 commuters who travel over it every day, but as of Wednesday evening it will be closed for modernization repairs. 

From 10pm Wednesday until 5am on Monday morning, the roadway will be sealed off, according to the NRW Roads Authority.

One of 573 bridges

The Fleher is one of 573 bridges in North Rhine-Westphalia which are dilapidated and in urgent need of repair, according to a statement published on Monday by the North Rhine-Westphalia Transportation Ministry. 

The ministry examined a total of 920 bridges following a parliamentary inquiry launched by the state’s Alternative for Germany (AfD).

SEE ALSO: Bridge collapse 'cannot be ruled out' in Germany, says expert

However, it’s likely that the list will grow to be even longer, as the ministry still needs to inspect an additional 200 bridges with regard to their age, method of construction and level of traffic congestion.

For safety reasons, weight restrictions have already been imposed on eight bridges in the state, Germany's most populous, such as the Leverkusen Rhine Bridge.

The cost of modernizing the bridges to make them “driveable” has already amounted to €107 million between 2015 and 2018, according to the state’s Ministry of Transportation. 

Bridging the gap

The majority of the bridges in North-Rhine Westphalia in need of repairs were built between the 1950s and 1970s. One prominent example is the scenic Ruhrtal Bridge, on which the A52 runs between Essen and Düsseldorf.

The Ruhrtal Bridge. Photo: DPA

“In order to cope with the increasing flow of traffic, these bridges have to be renovated,” wrote the NRW roads authority.

Since 2016, there has been a noticeable increase in construction on North Rhine-Westphalia's roads – yet more money is also being invested. 

In 2018, for example, the budget of the state company climbed to 1.4 billion for the first time, and a similar amount of money will flow in 2019. 

By way of comparison, in 2015 the NRW Road Authority had spent slightly more than 900 million on road construction. These additional investments also generated more traffic jams on the motorways due to the increased construction.

Whereas in 2015, there were a total of 247 traffic jams which lasted longer than a day, there were more than 330 projects each year in the years that followed.

SEE ALSO: The German cities with the worse traffic jams

A major undertaking

The Fleher Bridge, which is used daily by around 85,000 vehicles (12,000 of which are trucks), does not need to be rebuilt, but it does need to be comprehensively repaired. The work is expected to take five years, according to the NRW Roads Authority.

The bridge will then be able to cope with traffic on all six lanes. In the course of routine checks in April 2018, cracks were discovered in the diagonal struts that support the overhanging carriageway slab to the left and right. 

Since then, two lanes have remained open in each direction, and truck traffic can also use the bridge.

The state of bridges in Europe has been an especially focal point of discussion since August 2018, when a large bridge collapsed in Genoa, Italy killing 43 people. It was completely demolished in June in order to make way for a new structure. 

SEE ALSO: Concern over state of Berlin's bridges after figures show more than 40 have defects


Indispensible – Unentbehrlich 

Traffic congestion – (die) Verkehrsbelastung

driveable – befahrbar

By way of comparison – Zum Vergleich

Repaired – saniert

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Do you have any suggestions? Let us know.

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Why are some parts of Germany still not vaccinating people in their 60s?

Germany has no doubt accelerated its vaccine rollout. But despite the progress, some people in priority groups - such as the over 60s - are still not getting their jab in some parts of the country.

Why are some parts of Germany still not vaccinating people in their 60s?
People queuing at a a special vaccination campaign at the Ditib Central Mosque in the Ehrenfeld district of Cologne. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Henning Kaiser

After a painfully slow start, Germany ramped up its vaccination campaign, breaking European records on the number of shots administered to people in one day.

Yet despite all of this, there appears to be a lottery on where things are moving quicker in the country.

Now as Germany gets ready to lift the priority list on June 7th – meaning that all adults will be able to apply for a vaccine appointment, no matter their age, health condition or job – there are worries that not all members of risk groups are being vaccinated.

Although Dortmund, in North Rhine-Westphalia, has opened up vaccination appointments for priority group 3, people aged 60-69, who are also in this group, are not able to book an appointment at a vaccination centre.

They have been invited to “special vaccination” drives using the AstraZeneca vaccine on certain days in April and May but according to Dortmund’s city vaccination plan, this offer has now ended. They were generally available on a first-come-first-served basis and ran out quickly.

“As soon as further vaccine for this group is made available, further appointments may be booked,” says the plan.

Dortmund city’s vaccination plan shows that over 60s in priority group 3 are currently not able to make an appointment. Screenshot from

That’s the case despite over 60s being able to access a vaccine in many other parts of the country, including Berlin and Baden-Württemberg.

The Local Germany reader Richard, who is 65 and has lived in the Dortmund area since 1999, said he was concerned that people in this age group were being forgotten.

Although priority groups should be able to book a vaccine appointment with their GP, or another doctor, many GPs are not carrying out vaccinations or giving out appointments. 

Richard said his doctor told him it wasn’t possible for him to make a vaccination appointment until mid-June when everyone can apply.

“I have followed the requirements and requests of the government in patiently waiting my turn, but with this opening up of applications to everyone on June 7th, I feel that my being a good citizen and not trying to jump the queue as many people have has been thrown back in my face,” he told The Local.

Richard said he is keen to get a jab soon as he suffered from severe bronchial asthma until he was 14 which means he still gets shortness of breath when he catches a cold. Furthermore he suffers from panic attacks and works in the live music business which may require full immunisation for travel when it gets back on track.

A person receiving a vaccine in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

“It seems that many Germans think that the healthy 60+ category is already being inoculated, but in Dortmund that is simply not the case; as of this morning, it is still not allowed to book an appointment.

“With under three weeks until the doors are thrown wide open, I am really concerned that I and every healthy fair-minded 60+ person are now being forgotten.”

The Local contacted the North Rhine-Westphalia health office for a comment.

Why is there such a lottery when it comes to getting the vaccine in Germany?

Despite a clear acceleration of vaccine delivery in Germany, there are still people who belong to ‘risk’ priority groups who have not been vaccinated yet.

Other readers of The Local have also reported that they’ve struggled to find information or get an appointment even though they qualify for a shot.

This could be down to bureaucratic failures in states or local regions when trying to secure appointments. It’s also not particularly helpful that each area in Germany has a different way of doing things, and processes change at short notice.

The vaccine rollout in Berlin is different to neighbouring Brandenburg, and so on.

Another factor is the behaviour of people. It appears you are more likely to get a vaccine if you push for it, or have the time and resources to contact lots of different doctors – but Health Minister Jens Spahn has urged people not to put pressure on medical staff.

You might know a person with a contact for a vaccinating doctor, or you might be lucky enough to receive an appointment from your own doctor, be it a GP or a specialist. 

This points to a long-standing problem with Germany’s organisation of the vaccine rollout: it isn’t very logical, and a lot of it depends on luck.