Ton Buijink: “All projects must be able to last for another hundred years”

Ton Buijink: “All projects must be able to last for another hundred years”

Bridges, tunnels, locks, viaducts, quay walls… Ballast Nedam renews and renovates infrastructure objects throughout the Netherlands. How (and why)? We asked one of our key figures in this field: Ton Buijink.

Ton, why is there such a major renovation task within the Dutch infrastructure?
Much of the infrastructure in the Netherlands was built in the 1950s and 1960s. It is now used much more intensively than anticipated, so that many objects do not achieve a design life of a hundred years. These objects therefore need to be replaced or renovated sooner.
Many of our expertise come together in these activities
Ton Buijink Director Ballast Nedam Infra Projects
Do we notice any of this in the Netherlands?
Yes, it has become increasingly noticeable in recent years. Some bridges have even been closed to heavy traffic for a while, such as the Merwede bridge at Gorinchem in 2016 and the bridge over the Maas at Grave in 2020.

What does Ballast Nedam do in this field?
Our focus is on the renewal and renovation of fixed and movable bridges, locks and tunnels. We can undertake these projects thanks to the expertise that we have in-house or that of our regular partners. This work brings together many of our expertise, which we are already using extensively in other Ballast Nedam projects. For example, we have knowledge of project management, concrete structures, the installation and repair of asphalt pavements and the replacement of electrical and mechanical systems. In doing so, we bundle our knowledge from the Ballast Nedam Infra Projects, Ballast Nedam Park & ​​Connect and Ballast Nedam Road Specialties organisational units and deploy the knowledge of our Digital Transformation & Innovation department.

What makes renewal and renovation of infrastructure extra challenging?
We don't know exactly what we're getting into at the start. But that applies to all parties to these projects: clients, contractors and knowledge partners. This makes it difficult, because when we renew a bridge partially or completely, it is not always known, for example, what the status is of the foundation under the bridge or what is the status of the deck. Only when we start on the project we are able to assess the real situation. That can be disappointing or not. How do we get the bridge out? And what does it take to power the bridge? How do we replace the lifting part? And how do we tackle the drive mechanism that ensures that the bridge deck can be opened for shipping traffic?

It is quite a risk to embark on such projects. How do we do that?
That's right. That is why openness about this challenge between our clients and ourselves is very important. Our clients are already taking this into account in the form of the two-phase contract. In the first phase we detail the project with the client, after which the contract sum can be finalized. We work together with our client on this, so that there are fewer uncertainties in the project for both. This form of contract is not a solution for all renewal and renovation projects, but it helps enormously. By coordinating everything properly and then executing it according to plan, we ultimately ensure that the object is strong enough to last a hundred years.

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