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Counterweight failure cripples Swedish bridge

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SWEDEN'S TOP two contractors have sidelined their dispute over responsibility for the counterweight failure which crippled the country's first double bascule lifting bridge to get the £13M structure working again.

This week the bascules on the 61m span Saltsjobro bridge in Sodertalje near Stockholm were lowered from the vertical for the first time since 25 March. On that day the 200t counterweight on the southern bascule broke away during tests of the hydraulic operating mechanism, crashing to the bottom of its housing chamber.

Subcontractor for the steel bascules, hydraulics and control equipment is a subsidiary of construction giant Skanska - Skanska Steel Engineering. A spokesman for main contractor NCC Construction Sweden told NCE this week: 'We will finish the repairs first, then argue afterwards. If all goes well the bridge will be ready in mid-October.'

An independent report into the accident blamed the failure on a counterweight locking bolt which had failed to withdraw completely after the bascules were raised. As they were lowered again the southern counterweight's mounting lug fouled the bolt, causing the bolted joint between the counterweight and the bascule to fail.

According to the report, the fact that the bascule could be lowered while the locking bolt was out of position pointed to 'an inadequacy of the automatic control and regulation system'.

The investigators also considered that the bolted joint that failed was 'inadequately dimensioned' and breached current regulations.

A spokesman for Skanska said the report was 'only preliminary' and that it was not yet possible to identify where the blame should be laid. 'If it turns out to be our fault we will naturally accept responsibility, ' he added.

Earlier problems on the project mean that if it does open in October as planned it will be 11 months late, the NCC spokesman confirmed.

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