Only rare phenomena, such as 11 Beaufort winds, might close bridge

The bridge, which finally opens to vehicle traffic this coming Thursday, is an exemplary project that was completed six months ahead of schedule and within the original budget of 750 million euros. «There are two reasons for this. First of all it was carried out under a build-operate-transfer agreement, an investment in which the private sector has absolute control. The consortium is not only in control of the construction process but the design and above all the maintenance of it for many years. We are responsible for the entire package and naturally we have overall control. The same thing applies to the cost – we have to control the costs because we can’t ask the State for more money,» he said. «We are an international firm, in fact some magazines have classified us as foremost in the world, and we have brought in the technology, the methods and management of a major project,» said Teyssandier. In fact, the American magazine ENR has Vinci at the top of its world listing. «For example, our first concerns from the outset,» went on Teyssandier, «were safety and quality. We trained the people at the construction site, we explained to them what safety was, what quality was and we had no problems, no serious accidents,» he added. The Rio-Antirio bridge was scheduled for completion at the end of this year. According to Teyssandier, there was an agreement with Athens 2004 to have the bridge open months beforehand to be included in the Olympic Torch Relay. «We were in consultations with Athens 2004 in early 2003, although it was not at all clear whether it would be ready in time for the Olympic Flame relay. We finally decided to speed up work to enable this to happen. We changed the construction methods slightly to bringing the completion date forward, although at some extra cost,» he explained. The president of «Gefyra» claims he had often feared the project would never be completed, not because of the technical difficulties but due to the funding of the project. From the technical point of view, the job was original in that it combined two technologies in a way that was unprecedented. These were the special foundation on the seabed and the cable construction of the bridge. In general, cable bridges do not have large foundations. This was the first time it was used due to the specific nature of the region, taking into account its seismic activity. It is the largest cable bridge in the world, with a deck 2,250 meters in length, supported on the largest foundation ever built (90 meters in diameter). The French, who were always in favor of a bridge rather than the tunnel proposed by other engineers, resolved the technical issues early on. «A tunnel was not feasible technically because you would have to dig very deep, since the depth of the sea is about 65 meters in the area. You would probably have to go 100 meters below sea level; even if you built a tunnel that rested on the seabed, the problem would be the same. From the beginning it was clear that from the technical and environmental point of view, it was not possible to build a tunnel. A train tunnel would have been a good idea as it would not need the same amount of ventilation as one in which cars are traveling. It would also be of a smaller diameter,» explained Teyssandier. Many people have wondered why no provisions were made for a train service over the bridge. Teyssandier said this would not be economically viable. «In Europe, usually high-speed train lines are built to link very large cities or commercial centers. Why would one want to provide a train link between Patras and Ioannina?» As for the other issue on everyone’s minds, that is, the bridge’s stability, Teyssandier claims that in winds of 9 on the Beaufort scale, the bridge would close to susceptible vehicles such as motorcycles and tall vehicles. «We are thinking about closing to all traffic if wind speed reaches 11 Beaufort, but we are even giving that further thought. After all, we rarely have winds of such force. Moreover, not many vehicles venture out on the roads in such winds.»

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