Yet another bridge collapse throws spotlight onto unnecessary desire to keep roads open.
There are certain things in life that are just so ludicrously dangerous that they should require no formal risk assessment as they just scream “DON’T!” – Understating your body weight just prior to a bungee jump for example; sleeping with the wife of a Great White Shark; wasp nest piñata.
Until quite recently, I had (wrongly as it transpires) assumed that demolishing a road bridge over a road with traffic flowing beneath would likely fall into this category. Not only is it wholly avoidable – a driver frustrated by the temporary closure of a road is surely preferable to a dead driver wearing a bridge deck hat – but it is doubly risky, relying upon notoriously unpredictable bridge structures and even more unpredictable road users to behave themselves.
Yet, for all the obvious and inherent risks, this is still viewed as a viable demolition method in certain circles. And, what is remarkable about the latest example of this is that it happened in Finland.
I have been fortunate enough to visit Finland on a number of occasions. I have several Finnish friends and I am yet to meet a Finn that I don’t like (impressive given my customary warmth towards my fellow humans). And for all their controlled lunacy behind the wheel of a rally car and their passion for salted liquorice (don’t knock it till you’re tried it…then you can knock it all you like), the Finns are an eminently sensible race of people. For this latest bridge collapse to have happened in Finland goes against the national grain like the Scottish Temperance Movement; public displays of affection in England; American gun control.
As I have said on countless occasions previously, I am not a demolition expert; I am merely an interested observer and occasional commentator. But even I can see that demolishing a bridge with live traffic running beneath is akin to playing Russian roulette with five chambers loaded. And any contractor proposing this as a viable demolition method or any client countenancing such a suggestion needs training, psychiatric help or a good slap* (please delete as applicable).