French bridge soars into record books

12th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 11 (AFP) - The world's highest bridge, designed by British architect Norman Foster, will be opened in southwestern France this week, taking its first traffic over the river Tarn in the Massif Central mountain range and soaring into the record books.

PARIS, Dec 11 (AFP) - The world's highest bridge, designed by British architect Norman Foster, will be opened in southwestern France this week, taking its first traffic over the river Tarn in the Massif Central mountain range and soaring into the record books.

"The height of the supports, the length of the work, the number of pylons, it's an exceptional feat," crowed Jean-François Coste, head of the state's expert control team, ahead of the bridge's inauguration on Tuesday.

The road will convey travellers a spectacular 270 metres (890 feet) above ground, along 2.46 kilometres (1.6 miles).

The structure is 23 metres taller than the Eiffel Tower - reaching 343 metres at its highest point.

Designed by Foster and financed by the French construction group Eiffage, the soaring steel bridge has already drawn praise from hundreds of thousands of tourists.

Completing a major new motorway link from Paris to the Mediterranean it removes a notorious bottleneck through the town of Millau below.

Its seven slender pillars rise like giant needles from the valley bed - one of them standing 245 metres high, the tallest in the world.

It is hoped the edifice will restore some of the pride in French engineering technology, which took a bad dent with the collapse of part of a new hi-tech terminal at Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris at the weekend.

The Millau bridge was assembled using highly innovative construction techniques.

From the north and south sides of the valley, the metal sections of the bridge were assembled, lifted slightly and then carefully slid into place on each of seven supporting pillars.

The operation was repeated 18 times to bring the two halves of the deck together.

The total metal structure weighs approximately 36,000 tonnes - around one quarter of the weight of a similar bridge built with concrete and conventional techniques. It was built in record time, with construction launched in December 2001.

Eiffage shouldered the entire construction cost of EUR 394 million (USD 524 million) and has been granted a concession to operate the bridge for 75 years.

Motorists will be charged EUR 4.6 (USD 5.6) for the trip across the bridge, rising to EUR 6.5 in the summer months, while heavy vehicles are to be charged EUR 19.

When he laid the first stone, communist transport minister at the time Jean-Claude Gayssot called it "the most beautiful and the biggest bridge in the world".

© AFP

Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article