The in 2015 destroyed Friesenbrücke is scheduled to be rebuilt in 2022 as a 130 metres long swing bridge, with a clearance width of about 58 meter. This shall allow two trains to cross the bridge every hour, according to a statement by Tjeerd Postma, the Wunderline project manager of the Province of Groningen.

Earlier this week the German broadcaster NDR reported that two new construction options were still being considered in this context: a swing bridge versus a drawbridge (or bascule bridge). However, as would be subsequently stated by Postma: “This is actually no longer the case”.

As grantor of the concession of the Groningen-Leer railway connection and as such from a much earlier stage involved in the decision making process, the Province of Groningen had since long decided on the swing bridge option, he states. This swing bridge shall enable two trains to cross the Ems every hour, thus allowing the Wunderline – the fast Groningen-Bremen railway connection – to indeed finally become a reality.

A wider bridge

The new swing bridge, which is to be built across the Ems near the small town of Weener, shall have a clearance width of about 58 meter, Postma says. “The old bascule bridge was a mere 36 metres wide and therefore used to – literally – form an obstacle for the quite large passing cruise ships, built nearby by the Meyer Werft shipbuilding company near Papenburg. Often, a part of the bridge had to be removed, thus causing railway transportation to come to a halt. In the future this shall not happen anymore.”

In the new situation, the bridge shall be available for rail transportation for 20 minutes each hour. “This used to be even less in the days of the old bascule bridge. Consequently, all-stops trains will always have to cross the bridge immediately after an express train has crossed it”, Postma explains. On 3 December 2015 a coastal freight vessel allided with the unopened railway drawbridge, thus damaging it beyond repair. Ever since, Arriva has been offering rail replacement bus services from Groningen to Leer.

German procedures

The necessary construction work is scheduled to be completed by 2024. All in all, rail transportation on this railway stretch will then have not been operational for a total of nine years. The Province of Groningen would have liked things to have developed differently, yet one has to bear in mind that: “he who pays the piper, calls the tune”, the Wunderline project manager points out. “The bridge is located in Germany, thus German procedures are to be followed here. We are merely a stakeholder in this context.

According to the NDR, (local) government authorities, the Deutsche Bahn railway company and the Meyer Werft shipbuilding company are jointly investing about 80 million euros in the construction of the new bridge.

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