A bridge so far over the Seine
Sunday 05 December 1993
Its two gigantic pillars on either side of the the Seine estuary will support a steel structure of striking elegance and grace, longer than the Champs-Elysee and as high as a Manhattan skyscraper.
What keeps the engineers awake at night is the fear that bad weather sweeping in from the Atlantic will rip the bridge apart at its most vulnerable stage - just before the spans meet in the middle. With typical sang-froid, however, the engineers say this is the worst- case scenario.
The bridge, whose construction began in 1988, is part of a grand French plan to link Le Havre with the new autoroute between Calais and Nantes. Whether its size is justified is another matter, as another bridge spans the Seine at Tancarville, 20 miles away.
Doubtless truckers, commuters and tourists will be happy to avoid the constant traffic jams up-river. And for British tourists driving south from the Channel tunnel, the bridge will be a boon, enabling them to avoid the busy main roads converging on Paris.
The cost to the French taxpayer is an astronomical 2 billion francs ( pounds 235m), but drivers will be charged a mere 30 franc toll per crossing. Cyclists and pedestrians will have their own lanes, though not many of the latter are expected regularly to tackle the walk.
The structure is a triumph of peculiarly French logic over matter-of-fact concerns about how to cross a given stretch of water. Following in the footsteps of such giants of engineering as Gustave Eiffel, the bridge's engineers are taking what appear in theory to be formidable risks. When Eiffel unveiled the drawings of his tower, few people believed that it would remain standing.
The engineer knew, from his calculations, that it would. But to keep everyone happy he added huge arched sections below the first stage of the tower; these give the impression of greater strength, but are, in fact, purely decorative.
- 1 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 2 Thailand deaths: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
- 3 Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
- 4 Julian Assange and Edward Snowden join piracy mogul Kim Dotcom’s political campaign in New Zealand
- 5 Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Thailand deaths: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
Jihadi John': MI5 may have identified Isis militant who killed David Haines but options limited
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: Police will be on high alert on Friday whatever the result
David Haines beheading: David Cameron says Britain will hunt down Isis 'monsters' shown in video murdering aid worker
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
Salmond accused of laughing off national debt with ‘what are they going to do: invade?’ joke
£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...
£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...
£350 - £425 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project Manager - 3 mont...
£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are seeking a DT teache...