“The mountain creeps” – international expert calls for building freeze

In December Pro-Mosel filed a criminal complaint against the building of the bridge citing insufficient planning, especially in regard to the safety of construction on a known landslide. Our complaint included a statement by renowned geological engineer, Prof. Azzam of RWTH Aachen, who was surprised that the building plans did not reach prescribed safety norms.

Following this, Prof. Azzam was invited to discuss his misgivings with the responsible authority in Mainz – the Landesbetrieb Mobilität Rheinland-Pfalz (LBM). The outcome of this meeting in December was an agreement to hold another meeting in January after further consideration of the issues. However in the meantime the building authority appears to have been tasked with trying to subtly undermine Prof. Azzam’s standing in the press (of which there has again been a great deal, none of it positive for the bridge). Today, that tactic proved to be yet another miscalculation.

From today’s article in a leading publication of the building industry, International Construction News bi-BauMagazin, we learn that Prof. Azzam has now called for a building freeze, because he says the mountain in Ürzig is anything but safe. “The mountain creeps“, and building must be stopped.

Prof. Azzam was shocked about what he found in his study of the plans: a harrowing record of incompetence, ineptitude and self-aggrandisement. Although there is a landslide at the Ürziger mountain, the required DIN standards for proof of stability have not been met. The whole planning is based purely upon an opinion. The studies that have been made are not complete or understandable. He could not find supporting documentation for earthquake and water security. Prof. Azzam said the whole thing “is just so off the cuff“. That you can build under these circumstances is incomprehensible” to him and he considers the project to beirresponsible“. He holds life to be in danger.
Until the meeting a few weeks ago, Prof. Azzam thought it very possible that the documents he had seen were not complete and therefore he did not have all the necessary evidence, in particular for the stability of the bridge. He realised that this was not the case when the missing evidence was not presented at the meeting. The representatives of LBM could not even present evidence of the correctness of their own statements.

Summarised and translated from the following article, the full version of which will be printed in the 12th January edition:

http://www.bi-baumagazin.de/Artikel_BM_Baustopp_fuer_Hochmoselbruecke_gefordert.AxCMS

The High Mosel Bridge is in trouble, experts agree

An astonishing film report was aired on SWR Landesschau Rheinland-Pfalz on 11th April 2014.

The following text is an English transcript of the report.

Note: DIN is the German Institute for Standardization

***

Voice Over: Is the construction of High Mosel Bridge not being played with open cards? Georg Laska of the citizens’ initiative Pro-Mosel has held this suspicion for years. He believes that the ministry responsible for it has covered up problems concerning the stability of the bridge. That’s why we meet with him on site, because he wants to show us an explosive memo from the Ministry of Economics which was leaked to him.

Markus Grewe (journalist): What does this memo mean to you?

Laska: Well, we now have it for the first time in black and white that proof of the stability of the bridge cannot be provided.

VO: In the paper that is shown in public for the first time today on Landesschau Rheinland-Pfalz it literally says: (On screen quote) “The building cannot be constructed according to the relevant DIN standards for the foundations, since building ground safety cannot be established.” In plain language: the stability of the bridge over at the Ürzig slope is not guaranteed. Awkwardly, this statement comes from the State Agency for Geology and Mining, which is exactly the technical authority who should know. Only now does it come out, how clearly the state geologists have warned the Ministry before the building of the bridge. Following a construction meeting held at the end of last year it is on record that the construction of the bridge is held to be too risky. (On screen quote) “Overall, it remains doubtful whether a robust risk assessment can be carried out at all due to the current findings.”

Laska: Yes, naturally we feel vindicated, now that we actually have the information, that what has been said for years about this being a problem is really true.

VO: Since the beginning of the year the bridge construction site has been in the headlines. It transpired that the head of the State Agency for Geology, Professor Ehses, had brought the stability of the planned bridge into question. The Ministry issued a gagging order, he was not allowed to say anything further on the subject. Nevertheless we go to Mainz and want to talk to him. DIN standards that are not being met, that doesn’t sound good. But the Ministry will still not approve an interview; the timing is wrong, we should wait for further groundwater investigations. (On screen quote) “Therefore neither the Ministry of Economics nor the State Agency for Geology and Mining will currently comment on that.”

Laska: Yes, it is quite amazing that one can only learn about such information in a roundabout way, because the Ministry keeps a tight hold on it and does not inform the public. There still seem to be some secrets, and we would really like to know: what actually is going on here?

VO: So would we. After all, the construction of the bridge will cost at least 375 million euros. At 1,700 metres long, it should eventually connect the Hunsrück and Eifel with each other, high above the Mosel Valley. But will it ever happen? In our search for answers we meet with Professor Edmund Krauter, the former deputy head of the State Agency for Geology. He knows the landslide slope on which the Ministry would like to build the bridge equally as well as Professor Ehses. He openly confirmed to us what the director of the State Agency for Geology is currently not allowed to tell us.

Grewe: Exactly how suitable is this slope for the bridge?

Krauter: It is actually not suitable at all, this is the most unfortunate place that you could choose. I was very surprised when I learned that here at this point the bridge should be built, because I knew that the slope is unstable. And I fully support the statement by Professor Ehses from the State Agency for Geology, because the slope is unstable and it is hazardous to build a bridge here. It is simply about the stability of the pillars, i.e. if the slope is moving, then of course the pillars will move.

VO: The Ministry comes under increasing pressure for an explanation. Now it has to drill measuring points 100 metres deep in the landslide to clarify: how does the groundwater impact down there on the stability of the slope? The investigation will cost the Ministry nearly a quarter of a million euros, there’s a lot riding on it. We want to know how much from a geology expert, so we go to Ingelheim to Johannes Feuerbach. The expert tells us: if the bridge cannot be built to DIN standards, the High Mosel Bridge hangs in the balance.

Feuerbach: All engineers, all builders of earthworks and foundations in construction work must comply with DIN standards. There are security margins which are given in advance and these margins have to be observed. If I realise that these security margins are not reached, then I may not build. And if anyone does build in this situation, then that is in fact irresponsible.

Laska: We don’t know whether the bridge can ever stand safely. What’s going on is practically a Russian roulette.

VO: Our impression is that it is time for the Ministry to now finally lay the cards on the table.

***

Translation from German by Sarah Washington

German version transcribed by Knut Aufermann:

For more information, see Pro-Mosel Press release 14.04.14 (in German):

http://pro-mosel.de/html/presse/2014_0414_PM.html

The Mosel Bridge – Slip slidin’ away?

Things are somewhat hectic for the campaign against the High Mosel Bridge at the moment. Following the furore caused by an official geological document leaked to Der Spiegel, Pro-Mosel are being inundated with requests from journalists and visits from television crews to the bridge site.
The leaked document was highly critical of the lack of adequate testing on the problematic Ürzig slope, where bridge pillars must be built on a known landslide area.
The state geologist Harald Ehses who at first spoke fully and freely to the press outlining the problems in more detail, has now been silenced by a gagging order from the Green-held Economic Ministry in Mainz. There has been much accompanying commentary, incredulous that such a project could be so poorly planned as to risk its own feasibility.
Full details in English:
Hot off the press: CDU Parlamentarischer Staatssekretär Peter Bleser is writing a letter to Germany’s new transport minister, Alexander Dobrindt to ask for “an assessment of the safety of the Hochmoselübergang”.

http://www.newsdump.de/news/mainz-infrastrukturminister-lewentz-zu-hochmoselubergang (Originally posted on SWR: Trier)

You can hear the stomach of Mainz rumbling from the Würzgarten!

“Building the bridge is significantly more risky than previously acknowledged”

Der Spiegel is today reporting that there are serious risks in the
construction of the High Mosel Bridge. Here is a translated summary of
the initial SPIEGEL report by Sarah Washington:

According to information received by SPIEGEL, experts for the
government of Rheinland Pfalz say the building of the bridge is
significantly more risky than previously acknowledged.

According to internal documents from the Green Economy Ministry of
Eveline Lemke, the state agency for geology warns of “significant
structural and financial risks” in the creation of pillars up to 150m
high on the west side of the Mosel valley.

The experts point to geological “slip surfaces” on the slope ranging
up to 70 meters in depth, which are “not reliably explored”. The
“geological risk” is assessed as “very high”.

The 130 million euro project is currently the largest bridge
construction site in Europe. The road bridge is to better connect Hahn
Airport in the Hunsrück Eifel region.

Residents and winemakers have been protesting for years in vain,
however the Social Democratic Ministry for Internal Affairs and
Infrastructure claimed that it could “not comprehend” the criticism.
The stability of the bridge could be ensured by “engineering
measures.”

—————————-

My reaction (feel free to quote Sarah Washington):

This confirms what we have feared all along – that
we will be left with half a bridge. There is information stretching
right back to the 1950s which suggests that the Ürzig slope may be too
problematic to build upon. As the government would not provide any
information, an independent geologist was engaged in 2011 who
confirmed the likelihood of significant problems. The campaign group
Pro-Mosel recently took the local government to court to try to find
out under the Freedom of Information Act what the problem is with the
static calculations for the bridge, which have seemingly already
caused a one-year delay. The court ruled that the government could
remain silent by invoking the protection of ‘trade secrets’ of the
building companies. It seems that protesters were right to be
suspicious of the lack of transparency, and that the government is
withholding vital public information for the sole reason that it is
embarrassingly damaging for them. Our current Ministers appear to be
content to wait this problem out in the hope that it will become
someone else’s future responsibility. It is time to stop the charade
and protect the taxpayer and the vineyards from further abuse.

Our day in court – Pro-Mosel vs the government of RLP

The Pro-Mosel campaign group is still fighting against the High Mosel Bridge, and in the latest turn of events has taken the government of Rheinland-Pfalz to court

SAMSUNG

Outside the court house: Elisabeth Reis and Georg Laska, 2nd Chair and Chairperson of Pro-Mosel

Pro-Mosel are trying to view, under the Freedom of Information Act, a review of new static calculations that was carried out by an independent surveyor and which has so far been withheld by the government. It seems there was a problem with the original bridge plans because the need for new calculations appears to be the cause of a one year delay in building. At the hearing in the Administrative Court Trier, the lawyer for Pro-Mosel argued that the review should be available for scrutiny in accordance with the law. The lawyer for the public works department and the Ministry of the Interior, for Sports and Infrastructure stated that the construction companies did not want this information to be made public. The Pro-Mosel lawyer pointed out that it is not up to private companies to decide what information should or should not be given out, but up to the government. The lawyer for the Ministry stated that to give out this information would expose trade secrets, threaten the protection of intellectual property and thereby render the government liable to a damages suit from the building companies should any costs arise. The Pro-Mosel lawyer said that this argument is unlawful, and that he considered the static review to be an official proceedural document which must therefore made public upon request. Vice President of the Administrative Court, judge Reinhard Dierkes said that since performing the static review was a public legal requirement the court regards it as official information (thereby agreeing in principal with the case as put forward by Pro-Mosel’s lawyer). Nevertheless, there may in certain instances exist reasons not to make specific data public.

It remains to be seen whether the court consider the government’s decision to withhold data and not follow legal proceedure to be justified, or wholly inadequate. The judges will now make a ruling and then inform both sides by letter. It will take some weeks before we will know the result. There was substantial interest from the press in this case, and it was clear that the court was not used to hosting a full compliment of television, radio and newspaper journalists. We all await the outcome, and whatever twists and turns ensue.

SAMSUNG

10 campaigners managed to show up at the court today. I guess we don’t look like a bunch of people who will change the world for the better, but that doesn’t stop us trying our best!

Action for all our supporters – please spread this news before the deadline

We finally have something for all those of you who have been asking what you can do to support the vintners at the Mosel in their quest to retain their way of making wine without the destructive intervention of a massive road project right over their heads.

The sommelier come social geographer Jessica Pierce has arrived in the valley to document the changes it is going through and disseminate on a larger scale the ongoing problems of the construction of the Mosel Bridge. All you have to do is spread the word about this project, and if you can, donate a sum to help make her film a reality.

Read all the details here, and have a look at the donation page – Jess is offering some beautiful options for her sponsors.
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1298769353/the-mosel-shortcut

Please make sure you view the rough cut interviews, to get an idea of the scope of the project. Here’s a direct link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vWSYFIEXu4&feature=youtu.be

Wishing Jess all the best in raising the funds needed for the project, and you all the best for keeping an eye on developments and your hearts firmly in the right place.

Ramsauer no-show day

The transport minister Peter Ramsauer was in the region today, and it was rumoured that he might drop by and visit the bridge building site. Although we were ready for him he didn’t find the time to come and see for himself the nonsensical implications of his transport policy. He did however take time to give an interview to the local newspaper. “Hochmoselübergang ist wichtig” – Bundesverkehrsminister Ramsauer im TV-Interview claims the headline: “Hochmoselübergang is important”, although the piece was primarily about other issues and the words he used were slightly different. It is not news that this newspaper is pursuing a blinkered agenda.

The building of the bridge pillars is proceeding at less than a snail’s pace, and construction works around the village of Graach have been halted due to a landslip in a vineyard caused by the relocation of a power line – which now warrants exploration through test drilling before work can recommence. Little wonder to any local person who knows the commonplace natural risks of these unstable slopes. In January disaster was narrowly dodged in Traben-Trarbach on the opposite bank from Graach of the narrow Mosel spur upon which the motorway is being built, when a huge boulder fell onto the terrace of a house.

Above Zeltingen-Rachtig the builders create their own commentary via the placement of road signs:

Even we say: "Stop this madness"!

Even we say: “Stop this madness”!