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Spectacular new bridge over the Ijssel

Thousands of onlookers applauded as the last of a total of 51 bridge elements, the centre section 135 m long and weighing 2500 t, was floated in and lifted into place. Since May a new railway bridge has spanned the River Ijssel between the provincial capital of Zwolle and the small town of Hattem.

On Sunday 2 May, at 5.57 p.m. to be precise, the grand finale that both the client and the project team had been working towards so intensively, was made perfect in an operation that had lasted the whole weekend. The construction of the new 925 m long twin-track railway bridge had begun as part of the new 50 km long "Hanzelijn” line between Zwolle and Lelystadt in the autumn of 2008. The contract for the EUR 53 million bridge, affectionately referred to as "Red Bitch” by the architect, Paul Wintermans, had been awarded to the Max Bögl Group by the joint venture ARGE Welling/Züblin.

Tightrope act in the middle of the river

While the approach bridges were being finished, the first steel components for the centre section, also fabricated in the Sengenthal steel plant, were being transported by ship in January 2010 and pre-assembled in a yard on the riverbank. Upon completion, the entire structure was launched onto pontoons with the help of two heavy trucks. With navigation blocked for 48 hours, one end of the bridge was pushed from the Zwolle side onto the first pontoon. Once the first pontoon was floating on the river, the other end of the bridge was launched onto the second pontoon. After that, push boats and tugboats started to manoeuvre it into the correct position.

Just before the weekend, Belgian lifting specialist Sarens had positioned four strand lifters, each with a lifting force of 450 t, at both abutments. As soon as the bridge had reached its exact position in the middle of the river, it was fixed by means of 248 strands at the lifting devices. After all preliminary work had been completed, the lifting works started at 2.15 p.m. The heavyweight colossus crawled up to a height of 9 m – centimetre by centimetre. At this speed, the bridge reached its final position on the piers shortly before 6 p.m. After lifting into place, the bridge part that had been prefabricated with an excess length of 20 cm and only cut exactly to size shortly before the lifting operation, was welded to the lateral platform elements.

Worthy successor

The new "Brug over de Ijssel”, a total of 9300 t of steel, replaces the existing bridge 50 m to the north, which was built in the 1930s. This old bridge will be demolished in October 2011. A navigation clearance of more than 9 m above the river guarantees unhampered shipping. One striking feature, apart from the red colour, is the cantilevering slab on the south side of the superstructure for bicycles and emergency vehicles. In addition, environmental sustainability was ensured when building the bridge: to make sure the flow profile of the Ijssel is not restricted and the ecological balance of the river is maintained, the approach viaducts were founded on individual piers.


Zwolle, Overijssel, Netherlands, Europe - Hattem, Gelderland, Netherlands (2011)

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