Why bridges collapse

Read a civil engineering article about why bridges fall to practise and improve your reading skills.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the text and do the exercises.

Reading text

Some of the biggest and most expensive transportation projects in the world have involved building bridges. Bridges are crucial links that carry cars, trucks and trains across bodies of water, mountain gorges or other roads. As a result, they are one of the most important aspects of civil engineering and are subject to intense scrutiny, especially when they collapse.

Bridge collapses can be tragic events, leading to loss of life and serious property damage. That's why bridge engineers, designers and builders must always take their jobs very seriously. The best way for them to prevent these accidents is to understand why bridges collapse in the first place. Understanding bridge collapses can lead to major changes in the design, construction and safety of future building projects. The following are main reasons why bridges fall.


Historically, more bridges were made of wood and were much more susceptible to fire. This was particularly true of old-fashioned train bridges, where the spark created by the steel wheels and steel tracks could sometimes cause a bridge to catch fire and burn to the ground.

During construction

A large number of bridge accidents occur during the construction of the bridge itself. These accidents are often due to an error made by the engineers, such as a miscalculation. The bridge collapses under its own weight, and this can be deadly for the workers on it at the time.


Earthquakes damage all structures, including bridges. Luckily, this kind of collapse is relatively infrequent, especially with modern bridges. Engineers have learned to design bridges in earthquake zones on areas that are much more resistant to movement.

By defect

Some bridge collapses are mysteries, and engineers only realise why after they conduct a complete investigation. In some cases, this could happen because inferior-quality material was used in the construction, or because of a defect in a key piece of the bridge. In other cases, the bridge was designed only to support a certain amount of weight and no more.

Boat or train crash

Both of these kinds of accidents are extremely rare, but boats and trains can cause a bridge to collapse for different reasons. With trains, it's the velocity of the impact that can bring a bridge down. With boats, it's the very large mass they have that can bring about the collapse, even if they are moving very slowly when it occurs.

The best way to avoid bridge failures is to plan for them. Modern technologies that can detect structural weakness, safer working environments and better designs can all help to reduce these terrible accidents.

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Language level

B2 English level (upper intermediate)

Submitted by Barrita on Wed, 04/05/2022 - 18:54


Hello, I am Eduardo I watch videos the bridge of San Fransisco in US, in México don´t have bridge fomous only the of Guasteca Potosina. in general my country the bridges are so bad the campany for save money does the construccion bad quality and the enggenir so a minioums the goverment. on april 3, 2021(yesterday was aniversari) collapse the line 12 the train in the city the México sanlees people death

Submitted by delgado1984 on Fri, 01/04/2022 - 14:13


Another reason we didn't talk about is the wind. In addition to construction defects, the wind can generate serious problems for this kind of construction, like skyscrapers. We can watch some videos on the internet in which bridges are simply destroyed by the flow of the wind. Sometimes bridges are bent literally and forced by the wind, they oscillate smoothly even if they are made of concrete and steel. Especially long bridges are affected by this terrible antagonist.

I have heard for a new bridge in Chanakale, Turkey but I never have a chance to visited. I also would like to visit a Love bridge in Paris but when I have a boyfriend :) And have a one reason for collapse the bridge and this is on purpose made with bobms.

Submitted by Abrarhussain on Mon, 27/12/2021 - 21:58


The most famous bridges I know are London bridge of the UK and Khalifa bridge of the UAE. Yes I have visited them.

Submitted by Suraj paliwal on Fri, 22/10/2021 - 10:45


I know many bridges in India and other many countries. In India Habra bridge in West Bengal is famous but I never visited there.
In Paris a Love bridge I know about this. I sees photos and videos of this in internet. I about to go there.

Submitted by Andrea Valencia on Wed, 19/05/2021 - 19:36

I've heard about the Brooklyn Bridge, I haven't visited any famous bridges.

Submitted by Finn Pete on Fri, 05/03/2021 - 14:24

We couldn’t find the grammatical explanation to fortify the preposition/postposition on this sentence: ”The accident was subject to a full investigation.” It sounds right for my ear, but somehow so does this: ”The accident was subject for full investigation.” Could someone explain the usage of the pre-/post positions in the quoted sentences and under which grammar rule it lands. And would the meaning change by change between to and for? Now I know, there is a missing indefenate article on the second one thinking, it might change which one should be used.

Hello Finn Pete,

I don't see any question of pre-/postposition in your example. It appears you are asking only about which preposition is appropriate here and I would say that the collocating preposition is 'to': be subject to...


You can talk about something being 'a subject for an investigation', but that has a different meaning: subject to investigation means dependent or conditional on an investigation, while a subject for an investigation means it is a topic for an investigation.



The LearnEnglish Team

Ok, thank you, we came into the same conclusion, that the object and subject changes by the preposition. But I couldn’t explain it thoroughly enough to my students to understand tripping myself on the way. Pete

Submitted by Ehsan on Sun, 17/01/2021 - 07:40

there are many bridges in my country which some of them are famous. I've seen some of them. they are: " Pole Kabli" means "Cable bridge" in Tabriz, the bridge on the Orumieh lake in the Orumieh, "Siose Pole" means "Thirty-three bridges" in the Isfahan, "Pole Moallag" means "Suspended bridge" in Ardabil, and etc.

Submitted by reem mohd on Tue, 08/12/2020 - 16:40

there are two bridges I know which are very famous and interesting. The "golden gate" in the US. I didn't really visit it but I've seen it on the internet, and it has a pretty design. Also, the "Tolerance bridge" in the UAE. I've been to this bridge cuz I live near to it. I really love its design which i think is unique and eye-catching.
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Submitted by danisep on Mon, 07/12/2020 - 23:36

I have heard about the golden gate but I don't know it in person. talking about the bridges collapse, I remember here in Colombia in 2018 when the Chirajara bridge fell in the middle of its construction killing the workers due a bad design. The government spent millions on that bridge which promised to resolve transport problems connecting one important city with the capital. Everybody was shocked how an important and huge structure just fell down in two seconds and how a bad administration and corruption don’t care to put people 's lives at risk.
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Submitted by javi8 on Thu, 03/12/2020 - 15:04

The most famous bridge that I know is the Brooklyn Bridge, I’ve never visited it but I’d like to in the future.

Submitted by cittàutopica on Tue, 17/11/2020 - 12:18

Instead of answering the questions, I would prefer to remind a terrible collapse of the "Morandi" bridge, happened in my country, the fourteenth of August 2014. 43 people died and many people lost their homes. The reasons of the collapse still aren't verified.

Submitted by Bimble on Thu, 05/11/2020 - 23:02

I think the most famous bridge that I know is Tower bridge, located in London. I've been there in 2017 and was a great and rich experience. More than just see personally the bridge, I could understand a little bit more about its history. Definitely, I would go back and visit more places and bridges!
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Submitted by Hennadii on Tue, 27/10/2020 - 16:29

There are lots of bridges which deserve attention, Golden Bridge in San Francisco, Rialto Bridge in Venice or all those beautiful bridges in Paris. But today I would like to tell you about, probably, the most famous bridge in my city - Paton Bridge. It's obviously not the most beautiful bridge in the world and not the longest as well but it's world's first all-welded bridge, and we very proud about that fact. It was designed and constructed by our well-known engineer Evgeny Paton in 1953. This bridge consists of 264 identical blocks which are 29 metres in length each, held together by welding.

Submitted by Lau on Mon, 14/09/2020 - 12:26

What are some of the most famous bridges you know? Have you ever visited them? I visited Vecchio´s Bridge in 2013. This bridge is one of the most famous of the world. It is located in Florence, Italy. The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval bridge over the Arno River, it's the oldest and most famous of the six bridges in the city. It is also known as the bridge of the goldsmiths or jewelers because of the jewelry stores that are inside. The Ponte Vecchio is the symbol of the romanticism that floods all of Florence, its image is the best known and most representative of the city, a true emblem of it.
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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Sat, 12/09/2020 - 14:02

He collapsed from extreme fatigue... :|

Submitted by Roblox on Fri, 11/09/2020 - 16:24

Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. It's a beautiful bridge. It is the most interesting spot tourists visited. I am not sure but I guess the bridge is the link between manhattan and Brooklyn. Whenever I visit New York I always push my time to see it.

Submitted by AlexandrosDZ on Thu, 06/08/2020 - 23:05

I had the chance to visit the "city of bridges" Constantine , in northestern algeria ,it was named so in the honnor of roman emperor constantine the great , it's situated at an elevation of 640 m above the sea level , and it's famous by its seven bridges that crosse a deep gorge called "rhumel river" which sarround all the city of canstantine creating a natural fortress.

Submitted by antinaoki on Sat, 25/07/2020 - 07:20

I know the London Bridge, because of the song, it goes: london bridges falling down falling down. it was a catchy song so that when we were in kindergarten all of the child used to sing this song happily. But we didn't know whats the meaning of the lyrics, we were happy for people dying in the accident. Kind of ironic and funny tho.

Submitted by UK01 on Fri, 10/07/2020 - 17:28

I know 2 bridges which ı can give you information about .First one is golden bridge that is located in California,If ı am not wrong.Secondly, one of the three bridges of Istanbul which combines the continentals of Asia and Europe.

Submitted by jason2295 on Thu, 18/06/2020 - 16:58

I have heard about two famous bridges, the New York and London, unfortunately I have never been there, I would love to visit them.
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Submitted by OlaIELTS on Thu, 07/05/2020 - 03:08

They includes Tower Bridge , London Bridge, Lokoja Bridge in Nigeria and so on.

Submitted by DW on Mon, 04/05/2020 - 08:51

Actually, I can only think about two bridges – one of them is the Tower Bridge and the other one is the London Bridge. Both of them are in London. But I have never visited them before, I hope I can have the opportunity to visit them soon!

Submitted by Fikymaulana on Mon, 13/01/2020 - 06:07

The tower bridge in london is the famous bridge which I want to visit. Its classy. I haven't visit it yet but I have seen it on sherlock holmes movie. The place where Blackwood died hanging on the bridge.
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Submitted by Steve Zarv on Tue, 24/12/2019 - 05:39

The Chirajara's bridge was a bridge located in one of the remotest areas of the Colombian plains which aimed to connect the place to the city and thus facilitate the mobilization between roads. In the midst of the process, in January the 15, 2018 a malfunction of a beam brought about the collapse of the building claiming the lives of 8 workers in the falling, unfortunately for the town, there hasn't been any economic project along those lines since then.

Submitted by Shahzad7412 on Mon, 02/09/2019 - 17:00

I think english understanding is difficult thing. But I can easily understand english in this site and solve it.my interest developing in english through this site.

Submitted by Ol4ik on Fri, 31/05/2019 - 18:48

I don't know anything about the most famous bridges in the world, but the most wide-known bridge in my city is Leningradskii bridge. There is a memorial of memory about issues in Leningrad during the second World War on this bridge. It is average bridge that is approximately 500 meters length.

Submitted by AliMir on Mon, 20/05/2019 - 07:02

Hi regarding to 1st paragraph :" ... they ... are subject to intense scrutiny", why shouldn't be "subjected to". What are the differences? Thank you
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Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 20/05/2019 - 08:02

In reply to by AliMir

Hello AliMir 'subjected to' is also correct here; both forms mean exactly the same thing. The way it is written in the article, 'subject' is an adjective, whereas in the form you suggest 'subjected' is a past participle in a passive form. All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team
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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Tue, 09/04/2019 - 13:39

I know London Bridge's Falling Down ♬  I ever visited it, but I remember London Tower more clearly. ᔪ(°ᐤ°)

Submitted by Ken Moore on Mon, 08/04/2019 - 17:22

A good article. In Task 1 question 3, the bridge material is not an incorrect choice. Contact between the wheels and the track is not, in itself, a reason for bridges to burn.
Hello Ken Yes, you are right! We have just reworded the question and answer options to make it clearer. Thanks very much for taking the time to point this out to us! All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by UMUT on Fri, 01/03/2019 - 09:19

Osmangazi Bridge in Turkey, toll is 42$ and it is 2,7km long. Minimum wage is 370$ :)

Submitted by juanfra366 on Mon, 25/02/2019 - 19:47

Bridge of the 1812 Constitution, Cádiz, Spain

Submitted by Ola Jamal on Sat, 23/02/2019 - 19:03

Hello I have used to read a text then listen to an audio version .However I can not find audio for any reading text right now! How can I find them?
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Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 24/02/2019 - 07:45

In reply to by Ola Jamal


Hello Ola Jamal

There is no audio on the pages in our Reading skills sections, but there is either audio or video on all of the pages in our Listening and Speaking skills section. On those pages, though, the texts are true oral texts -- in other words, they are not people reading out loud a written text, but people speaking to each other. There is currently only one section on our site where you can hear someone read aloud a text -- this is our Podcasts for professionals section. 

By the way, we are working hard on a lot of new pages for the Listening section and hope to publish them in the next month or so, so please keep an eye out of that section!

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by alireza999 on Sat, 23/02/2019 - 17:24

it was very good