The Erasmus Bridge; Success Factors According to Those Involved in the Project
M de Jong, J Annema, Delft University of Technology, NL
The Erasmus Bridge is a successful major transport infrastructure project; it was built on time and within budget. The main reason for this success appears to be the culture of realistic estimating at the municipality of Rotterdam.
Most major transport infrastructure projects are unsuccessful: they often cost more than expected take too longer to construct, and don?t deliver the expected benefits. These problems allow for an inefficient use of public funds, and lead to a growing lack of confidence in building large projects, in planners and politicians involved and in politics in general. Much has been written about the causes of failing to build projects within budget and time. In this paper we choose another interesting approach: we want to look at success projects. We aim to know why some major transport projects are successful and what we can learn from them. This can help replicating success. A case study is done on the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. People involved in designing, planning and constructing the bridge were interviewed, and the case was analysed for critical success factors.
The Erasmus Bridge is a success story. This bridge connects the banks of the Meuse River, connecting the ?Kop van Zuid? river front development to the city centre of Rotterdam. The bridge was built on time and within budget. The bridge cost about 163 million euro (1996 prices), with a budget of 165 million (1991 prices), and was opened on the precise date as planned. The bridge was not constructed particularly because of a traffic problem, or network expansion. Rather it was build as a symbolic connection between the city centre and the new neighbourhood Kop van Zuid. One of the main reasons for constructing is that the bridge should function as a landmark, and that?s exactly what it?s become: a trade mark for the city of Rotterdam.
The bridge was built despite opposition against such an expensive project: the bridge was about 20 million guilders more expansive than its cheaper alternative, which was the preferred bridge for many of the engineers involved. The city of Rotterdam decided to build the expansive variant, because of its architectural qualities, and to provide the necessary means to do so.
When the bridge was built the construction market was not at its height, leading to lower construction costs than estimated. No major problems arose during the construction. There was, however, one serious problem that appeared after the finalisation of the bridge; it started vibrating as a consequence of rain and wind induced vibrations, a common trap for cable-stayed bridges, this problem was easily fixed, well within budget.
The main reason for success appears to be the culture of realistic estimating at the municipality of Rotterdam estimating costs as accurate as possible. Two elements are crucial: a refusal by civil servants to make lower estimations in order to help getting the required funds from local or national government and an ability to make very accurate estimations. This in turn requires experience; experience with doing estimations, building bridges, with problems associated with major projects and experience with dealing with contractors. This paper shows that all of these ingredients were available for constructing the Erasmus Bridge.
Association for European Transport