Design of railway bridges

Bridge Advisory Council of the Deutsche Bahn (German Railways)

The Bridge Advisory Council was set up in March 2007 in order to improve the design quality of railway bridges and provide for their cautious integration into the respective location. This development was down to the unrelenting commitment of Jörg Schlaich, who tried over a number of years to convince the decision-makers at Deutsche Bahn of the importance of aesthetic bridge structures. In 2007, a committee was finally set up in which both Deutsche Bahn employees and external engineers in an advisory role contributed important impulses for good design and innovations in the area of railway bridge construction in Germany. Hartmut Mehdorn, at that time Chairman of the Board at Deutsche Bahn, personally attended every committee meeting, which led to a high level of acceptance of the Advisory Council’s proposals.

The Advisory Council’s objective was, firstly, to develop general specifications or tools for how the aesthetics of railway bridges can be improved. This led to the development of the “Guidelines for the Design of Railway Bridges”, which contains proposals for concrete solutions for supporting structures in many typical valley situations and presents innovative further developments in the area of railway bridge construction. The guidelines have received a great deal of attention both in Germany and internationally and now even has a Japanese translation.

The second, probably more important aspect was that the Advisory Council dealt with very specific projects. All projects from a certain construction cost amount upwards had to present their plans to the Bridge Advisory Council. As such, the Council consulted on a total of 28 projects between 2007 and 2011 and, in this way, brought about important design, but also technical improvements. Especially remarkable in this respect are certainly the large semi-integral viaducts (e.g. Scherkonde Viaduct, Gänsebach Viaduct, or Unstrut Viaduct). This represented a huge step in the development of bridge construction even by international standards. However, the cooperation with the project groups also found very good solutions for small objects that represent the everyday business of railway bridge construction. Most projects that were dealt with in the Council went well. Nevertheless, there were also problematic cases, which caused project delays and sometimes additional costs. However, these problems should not dominate opinions within Deutsche Bahn, because there can be no further development without risks.

This project was presented as part of the 2015 Baukultur Workshops in Frankfurt.

Uses Infrastructure