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Bridges toll

Though most attention is focused on Novi Sad which blocks the crucial Danube route, Serbia has also been gradually rebuilding dozens of other bridges destroyed or damaged in the bombing.

Two more of these are in Novi Sad, but Belgrade itself also suffered damage: most significantly to two large bridges across the Sava river, one of the Danube's largest tributaries. The city was sited at the confluence of the two.

First of the bridges is a steel box section road bridge (BELOW) crossing to the south of the city and intended to form a connection for the long-awaited Belgrade bypass which will take much of the truck traffic from the Corridor Ten highway. It is due to re-open this month.

The 583m long bridge, with a central span of 199m, was started in 1990 but construction was suspended after two years with the imposition of sanctions.

Contractor Mostogradnja, Serbia's major bridge firm, restarted the work after three years and steady progress brought the bridge to completion in 1999.

But then, two days before it was due to open, it was bombed. Much of the 4400t of steel deck structure slumped into the river.

Two years ago the Roads Directorate was able to find enough money to begin a reconstruction.

First task was to lift the damaged steel deck from the river; this took a year because of need for close inspection and careful assessment. The fallen deck was then lifted with strand jacks mounted on tubular steel columns piled into the river bed.

About half the deck section has proved reusable and another half has to be remade in the contractor's steel works to the east of Belgrade, now owned by US Steel. The sections were delivered by barge and made up into larger units onshore.

A floating crane owned by the company has helped with the work.

Only one carriageway of an eventual twin bridge has been completed, though the piers are wide enough for the expansion when it is needed and also is financially achievable.

The company is now looking just 500m downstream at a twin track rail bridge (LEFT) where it has begun driving piled supports to recover a downed trestle section.

At least two bombs hit the bridge which has further damaged two piers along although the spans remained intact.

The bridge carries lines into an important marshalling yard complex on the south side of the city.

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