The neglected bridges

How we have worked

The Neglected Bridges

VG has been given access to the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA)’s digital database for bridges on national and county roads – a total of 16,971 bridges.

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VG has been given access to the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA)’s digital database for bridges. We have received data on all bridges on Norway’s national and county roads – a total of 16,971 bridges. Using this as a starting point, we have visited 104 bridges in 15 counties.

How we did it

  • 1. The NPRA’s database is called Brutus. This is a bridge management system that the NPRA itself has developed. Each bridge has its own health status journal.

  • 2. In March, VG was given access to the database via PDF files for all of the 16,971 bridges on Norway’s national and country roads, where the NPRA is responsible.

  • 3. Based on these data, VG has visited 104 bridges in 15 counties.

  • 4. Analysis of the reports and VG’s own observations show that the NPRA systematically breaks the rules they are required to follow in order to ensure that Norwegian road bridges are safe.

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In autumn 2016, VG requested access to the NPRA's bridge management system – Brutus. We received a large amount of data, but we were also told that the data might be out of date. Details from summer inspections are entered in autumn and winter. The deadline is 31 January, so according to the NPRA, the data are most up-to-date in February.

In March 2017, we again accessed Brutus, which now contained updated information. The data were delivered as PDF files – amounting to 90,389 A4 pages altogether.

The material covers 16,971 bridges on national and county roads. We have not included municipal bridges. In some cases, municipal or private roads cross these bridges even though they are officially part of a national or country road.

We have input the key data from the PDF files automatically. Although this is extremely accurate, errors may occur in the damage descriptions. We have also retrieved information about the bridges from the National Road Database (NVDB).

It was impossible to automatically input the NPRA’s rating for each individual instance of damage (consequence, degree of damage and priority). This information was therefore forwarded to us in May.

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During the summer, we realised that a vital piece of information was missing in the material we had received: the point of time at which the damage to the bridge had been rated. As a result, we couldn’t tell whether critical damage had only been discovered recently or whether the bridge had been in this condition for twenty years or so. We finally received this information in September.

This access enabled us to retrieve overviews of how many bridges are in the critical damage category or are damaged to the extent that they pose a danger to traffic – as well as how much time has passed without any action being taken.

Using the NPRA’s data, we have created a database where we can search for both individual bridges and statistics. Our database corresponds to just over one million cells in a spreadsheet.

In the database, we can retrieve overviews of severe damage, inspections and action points in the various regions and counties. This reveals considerable regional differences. We have analysed the findings using other statistics, including the total length of bridges in metres per county, how much money the regions spend on maintenance and how much traffic individual bridges carry.

The entire database is searchable so that our readers can access and read the status report for their local bridges, as they were described in the NPRA's register in March 2017. We have also created the Brobot (the Norwegian word ‘bro’ means ‘bridge’) that summarises the main findings for each of Norway’s 426 municipalities.

During the summer months, we have visited and photographed 105 bridges in 15 counties. We have driven thousands of kilometres, but local freelance photographers and people who live close to the bridges have also helped us.

We have primarily visited bridges that are logged as having damage that is severe enough to affect traffic safety or load capacity, but we have also carried out spot checks along the way.

Published: 8 November 2017

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