Collapse of Prague footbridge raises concerns regarding state of other bridges

Photo: CTK

The collapse of a footbridge across the Vltava River which left four injured on Saturday, has raised concerns regarding the state of the city‘s other bridges. Prague City Hall has now said it may close some of them for safety reasons.

Troja footbridge,  photo: CTK
The collapse of the Troja footbridge clearly came as a shock both to Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová and the head of the maintenance team monitoring the state of the bridge. Although City Hall was aware that the 30-year–old bridge was not in good condition and would need to be replaced, an expertise conducted just three weeks ago held no warning that it presented a public hazard. The head of maintenance Václav Hvízdal said that although the bridge was checked twice a year and electronically monitored there had been no warning of its approaching collapse.

“We had no indications whatsoever either from the 24-hour monitoring system or the last tests conducted that the bridge presented a danger to public safety. I have never witnessed anything like this in my life.”

The bridge was electronically monitored 24-hours-a day since 2013 sending signals to base every two minutes regarding its current burden and structure deflection. At 1.16 pm on Saturday the parameters appeared normal, after which the reports ceased. The footbridge was made of concrete and held by steel cables. Reportedly some of the cables were damaged, but experts say this should not have presented an acute danger. Hvízdal maintains that “something happened, which experts have so far been unable to identify”.

Troja footbridge,  photo: CTK
What exactly happened is under investigation, and in the meantime the focus is on the city’s 30 or so other bridges. Prague City Hall councillor for transport Petr Dolínek said a thorough revision of all the city’s bridges and footbridges was underway.

“We have first ordered inspections of bridges with a similar construction and after that we will undertake a thorough revision of the rest.”

According to experts a fifth of the city’s bridges are in need of repair and Prague City Hall is considering closing several of them and speeding up maintenance. The Radotín footbridge may be closed to the public and trams may be banned from Hlavkův Bridge, which is also reported to be in poor condition. A question mark hangs over the bridge in Prague’s Libeň district which is badly in need of maintenance, but City Hall says it cannot make a move before the Culture Ministry decides whether the Libeň Bridge should have the status of a cultural monument.

Libeň Bridge,  photo: KarelJ,  Public Domain
Councillor Dolínek says decisions need to be made fast, but he rejects speculation that Prague City Hall had underestimated or neglected maintenance of Prague’s bridges. At a press briefing in Prague on Sunday he said that between 2014 and 2017 the city had spent 1.2 billion crowns on maintenance work on the city’s bridges.

Meanwhile, the condition of two of the four people injured in the accident remains very serious. A sixty-year old man in is an induced coma and a woman of the same age is in intensive care with multiple injuries.