German, Dutch rail line cut for years after ship-bridge crash

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Weener, Germany
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HAMBURG, Germany — International cross-border rail service between the Dutch city of Groningen and the northwest of Germany are going to be severely disrupted for several years following a collision between a 7,000-ton cargo ship and a bridge on Dec. 3.

The bridge, near the small western German town of Weener, carries a single track rail line over the river Ems and was used by frequent regional passenger services between the north of the Netherlands and Germany plus limited freight services. Buses using an alternate road bridge have replaced the trains since the incident.

The bridge could also be used by pedestrians and cyclists and had a lifting section enabling cargo ships to pass through. It was this that the ship collided with. Nobody was injured in the incident, but rail traffic is suspended indefinitely and the river is currently also closed to cargo ships — around 10,000 a year normally sail under or through the bridge.

Experts surveying the damage and found that not only is the steelwork of the bridge damaged beyond repair but the force of the collision has damaged the bridge's foundations. Repairs are estimated at more than $11 million and could take up to five years.
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