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Are our bridges safe? Monitoring solutions provide the answers

DB Netz AG, Germany


Bridges are important components of rail and vehicle traffic networks. Trains are getting faster, trucks heavier – can bridges withstand this increasing load? Short and long-term measurements provide answers. The Bridge Measuring Group in the DB Netz AG is using HBK measurement technology.

Bridges age and fatigue differently depending on their construction. Even construction-identical bridges demonstrate individual behaviors because, e.g. the traffic loads and the climatic conditions on site are different.

Therefore individual new evaluations are frequently necessary.


Measurement value-supported recalculations

The Deutsche Bahn draws up recalculations at different levels for their railway bridges. New evaluations on complex bridge constructions must be carried out with the assistance of measurement technology.

This new evaluation can be implemented with short-duration measurements – so-called system measurements. They are however extremely complex and only provide a time-limited glimpse of the real loads. 

Permanent monitoring solutions offer an alternative to short duration measurements. They show the behavior of the bridge over a longer period of time and provide information about the resulting load collective which includes not only the traffic loads, but also wind forces, temperature changes and other influences.

This allows changes to the bridge to be detected in time and so avoid accidents.

Security with precise measurement results

The DB Netz AG is using HBK measurement technology within the framework of a pilot project aimed at developing durable permanent monitoring solutions for railway bridges.

One example is the monitoring of the Ziegelgraben Bridge in Stralsund, Germany. HBK transducers have been acquiring measured quantities here, such as strain and pressure, for many months.

Resultant threshold values are also recorded to determine the behavior of the 'bridge-machine' combination HBK's QuantumX CX22W measurement data recorder transmits all relevant data of a bridge elevation process to the persons responsible for the bridge.

The QuantumX CX22W acquires the measurement data of widely distributed measurement modules fully autonomously during the longterm measurements in this stationary field application. The measurement data is stored locally on a robust, exchangeable CF card and can also be called up online via Ethernet or Wireless LAN.

The measurement data acquired during monitoring makes it clear how construction components interact under real loads. This allows important information to be obtained for the maintenance and further use of existing bridges, and for the development of innovative construction methods.

DB InfraGO AG is shaping the future of German rail infrastructure. We have been pooling the resources of DB Netz AG and DB Station&Service AG in a public service infrastructure company since 1 January 2024. With over 61,000 employees*, we are working to establish the foundation of today's and tomorrow's mobility. Operating as a single entity, we aim to create an effective rail network and appealing stations that please our customers in every respect while staying focussed on the goals set by policymakers:

  • Doubling rail passenger transport volume
  • Raising rail freight transport's market share from 19% to 25%
  • Implementing Germany-wide timetable integration


We are also working on new management control tools for the public service infrastructure. An important component will be a multi-year federal infrastructure plan defining key performance indicators and measures for the rail network and stations; the plan will be updated annually. In addition, rail infrastructure resilience, greater market share for rail transport, and other public welfare objectives are now firmly anchored as corporate objectives in DB InfraGO AG's articles of association to provide guidance for the company's management.

From planning to implementation, we will take an integrated approach to all projects at DB InfraGO AG. From the outset, experts for rail infrastructure (Tracks division) and stations (Stations division) will be at the table in close contact with our stakeholders: rail companies, municipalities, passenger transport authorities, special-purpose associations, and the federal and state governments.

Technology used

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