This lecture was given to Luxembourg ICE members following the AGM on 11th January 2010.
Germany has a well-developed commercial canal system. A weakness has been in the east-west connection of the major natural waterways, which flow to the North Sea. A major canal from Hanover to Berlin was envisaged in the 1930ies and partly completed, and this obviously was stopped after the war. When the country was re-united, the canal was selected as a priority infrastructure project. A major obstacle to efficient operation was the crossing of the River Elbe near Magdeburg, which required the ships to descend to the river at a lower level using a ship lift and a lock.
The project comprised an elevated canal structure of 690-metre length and a bridge crossing the Elbe of 230-metre length. Also included were about 5 km. of connecting canal and two major locks, one being double. The canal was designed to cater for 2000-ton barges, with single way on the main structures. This may not have been economically optimum but was decided to contain costs.
The crossings were in steel and concrete construction, and the locks on poor ground required piled foundations. The locks incorporated water saving basins, which reduced consumption by over 50%.
Construction took place between 1998 and 2003 and total cost was 510 M Euro. Environmental compensation measures accounted for over 3 % of this cost.
The scheme has allowed greater use of the canal and this has met expectations. While much is container traffic, large loads such as the Airbus A380 fuse-large demonstrated its usefulness.
The conclusion was, despite its large and impressive scale, that this was not engineering megalomania but a necessary and well-planned scheme, which might possibly be criticised for being sub optimal with restricted capacity. Environmental aspects were well treated and the scheme was put to the test in 2002 by major floods without negative impacts.
Many thanks to Gerrit for such a fascinating talk, given by someone closely associated with the project. It incited a wider discussion on canal developments in (mainland) Europe.
Peter Bond, ICE Representative, Luxembourg