An unloved giant lies on the ground. The A45 viaduct Rahmede in Lüdenscheid was blown up and smashed into rubble. An important stage. Transport Minister Wissing is relieved.
With a loud bang, a blast and a huge cloud of construction dust, the Rahmede viaduct on Autobahn 45 disappeared from the scene. 150 kilograms of explosives caused the pillars to collapse, and the bridge fell down into a huge drop bed. Hardly any other blast has recently attracted as much attention as the action on Sunday at 12.00 p.m. The 17,000-ton colossus of concrete and steel from the 1960s has become a symbol for the ailing transport infrastructure in many places – and has long since become a political issue.
Exactly to the minute, the motorway bridge in Lüdenscheid collapsed spectacularly. The structure, which is up to 70 meters high and a good 450 meters long, on the A45, which is important throughout Germany and is also known as the “Queen of the Autobahns”, is now history. The bridge is gone, and huge amounts of rubble are now piling up there. But the problem is still there, also in political terms.
The bridge in North Rhine-Westphalia, which was in danger of collapsing, was closed on December 2, 2021. A central north-south axis between Dortmund and Frankfurt has been interrupted for 17 months – with serious consequences. Lüdenscheid and the surrounding area have been hit hard by traffic jams, noise, exhaust fumes, disrupted delivery traffic, lost sales and the emigration of skilled workers. The industry fears billions in damage.
Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing should have felt a heavy load on Sunday. Blasting is extremely important for a new building to be built as quickly as possible. A “milestone” has been achieved, praises the FDP minister, who followed the spectacle from a few hundred meters away. The difficult action was successful with precision.
New construction should come with “maximum acceleration”.
Now Wissing promises the region that a new building will come with “maximum acceleration”. At the same time, he makes it clear: around 4,000 more motorway bridges nationwide have to be renovated. Rahmede has shown how dramatic the consequences could be if there is no renewal in good time – and that must not be repeated. The new Rahmede building is currently classified by the Federal Ministry of Transport as one of the top projects in Germany.
In addition to Wissing, NRW Transport Minister Oliver Krischer (Greens) and several thousand people observed the blast on site or at a public viewing in the city center. Applause and calls like “hammer” or “madness” can be heard. Many clearly felt the blast. Minutes after the blast, small flakes of construction dust fall near the cordoned-off area. A smell like after a New Year’s Eve fireworks spreads.
The man of the day is Michael Schneider, demolition expert at the Liesegang company. Exactly at 12:00 p.m. he detonates the explosive charge with the words “Three, two one, ignition”. About 20 minutes later the all-clear signal comes. Only now is the demolition operation complete. The results on the now nationally prominent construction site are then carefully examined by his team.
Bridge falls exactly as predicted
The bridge descended “politely” into its fall bed, everything went exactly as predicted, reports Schneider, relieved after the difficult operation. The demolition had to succeed “exactly”. The area under the bridge is built on, the structure had to come down straight, and the parts weren’t allowed to slide off. And that’s actually how it all worked.
The Rahmede Bridge has become a symbol “of the infrastructure catastrophe that we have and are experiencing in parts of Germany,” emphasizes Lüdenscheid’s Mayor Sebastian Wagemeyer (SPD). After the demolition, however, a real departure is now needed. Even if a big stage has been completed, there is still a lot to tackle.
The citizens’ initiative A45 Lüdenscheid calls the demolition of the blast “a first visible sign of progress after 17 months of standstill”. However, spokesman Heiko Schürfel criticizes that there can be no talk of pure joy in view of the continuing illness-causing heavy goods traffic. Politicians are asked to “finally act together, to create the legal basis for further rapid bridge projects and to push ahead with the construction of the new bridge effectively and quickly”.
The federal government is reluctant to make forecasts
Shortly after the full closure at the end of 2021, the federal government had set a time target that traffic should be rolling again in five years. Later, one held back with forecasts. The ADAC drives to hurry. Fast completion of a new building is of paramount importance.
“Rahmede is everywhere. Anyone who builds more motorways now is taking away scarce skilled workers for the overdue renovation of dilapidated bridges and roads and exacerbating the climate problems in traffic,” warns Greenpeace traffic expert Marissa Reiserer. On the A45 alone, 60 viaducts have to be renewed. Of these, seven bridges are already finished and 15 are in the construction phase, said Stephan Krenz, head of the federal Autobahn GmbH. According to the Düsseldorf ministry, a good 870 motorway bridges in NRW are ready for renovation.
Public viewing in Luedenscheid
In Lüdenscheid there is an exuberant party atmosphere at the public viewing. Things are likely to be less cheerful in future in the North Rhine-Westphalia state parliament at the committee of inquiry, which has only just begun its work. It should be clarified why a new building in Rahmede, which was decided years ago, was postponed after all – and who is politically responsible for this. The opposition wants to target Hendrik Wüst (CDU), who was Minister of Transport until October 2021 before becoming Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia. Wüst had denied personal failings.
On the day the bridge fell, however, the focus is on the great sigh of relief. The demolition expert summarizes: “I’m just happy, happy, happy that everything went exactly as we wanted it to.”
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.