Sauerland steel traffic suffers from bridge closure

Steel transport in the Sauerland region, in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, remains hampered by the closure of a crucial autobahn bridge since early December, following the detection of material fatigue.

The damage appeared on the main girders of the bridge, in 5mm thick metal sheets. A 3D scan showed these sheets had deformed by 12-17mm, compared to the permissible maximum of 5mm. In the 1960s, bridges were built with significantly lower material thickness, at a time when traffic on the route was a third of what it is today.

The A45 autobahn crossing over the Rahmede Bridge near Siegen is an important connection between the Sauerland, which houses many traditional small and medium-sized steel companies, and the Ruhr region. The largest player affected is Deutsche Edelstahlwerke (DEW), which has four mills making special bar qualities, two of them located in Hagen on the Ruhr and in Siegen in the Sauerland.

“The closure is a disaster for us,” Horst Tonn, head of logistics at DEW, tells Kallanish. “Our setup of four mills requires that we move quite a bit of semi-finished material between the plants, also by truck. In addition, we have disposal transports of slag from the Hagen and Witten works to Siegen and back. The plannability of loading space decreases significantly, the availability of loading space tightens and prices develop significantly upwards because the haulers can no longer manage their tours.”

Following further inspection, it has become clear that the bridge cannot be repaired. It will be torn down this year. The construction of the replacement bridge is expected to take five years.

Christian Koehl Germany