What do you bring back from a trip to the Netherlands? Tulips perhaps, cheese or herrings, even a diamond if your budget stretches. But how about a nice second-hand bridge, guaranteed to be in excellent condition and looking for a new owner.
Consultant DHV currently has around 20 bridges on its database looking for a new home. Many of them are recent constructions and the oldest dates back only to 1922. And as Richard Bouman explains: 're-use avoids having to scrap the bridge and the buyer usually saves money. There are none of the manufacturing costs for a new bridge, only dismantling, transport and reassembly.
Bridges in the Bridge Bank range from simple wooden footbridges to more substantial structures like the steel Westerdoksbrug which spans a canal in Amsterdam's harbour. Most are still operating in their original locations, but their role has been superseded by modern structures.
One satisfied customer was Annemingsmaatschappij Hakkers. When the contractor was awarded the contract to widen a canal at Schijndel to more than twice its original width, it was clear that two bridges spanning the waterway would have to go - one a hand-operated drawbridge. The man who had been running it wanted to have it in his garden - presumably a reasonably large area - because of its sentimental value. Only later did the contractor learn that the bridge to which its operator had been so attached had been sold on to a developer.
The sale pointed the company in the same direction. When the second bridge was removed in 1966, it was transported to a storage depot and then on to the contractor's home base. However a proposed sale fell through because its development destination failed to materialise. Company boss Hakkers then heard about DHV's Bridge Bank and contacted it with drawings and specifications of the structure, which must have been taking up a fair amount of room at its Werkendam premises.
Happily a bridge was needed for Heuvelman-Ibis' docks development in Delfzijl. Looking through the DHV database, Andries Meter spotted that the bridge being offered by Hakkers seemed to be the right dimensions. A visit to Werkendam confirmed that the old bridge 'fitted the bill exactly'.
Hakkers recalls that a price was jotted down and 'in five minutes the deal was done'. A week later Heuvelman-Ibis picked up its bridge which was sent to be refurbished, before being placed in its new location.
Currently the Bank operates only in the Netherlands, but says Bouman sees no reason why the service should not be expanded. And, mindful of an opportunity, he adds that should a structure fail to meet the buyers needs precisely, then 'DHV can modify the foundations or the length and supply the necessary supporting piles.'