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Why bridges collapse

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

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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.



Language level

Upper intermediate: B2


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.

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.

He collapsed from extreme fatigue... :|

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.

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.

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.

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.

I have heard about two famous bridges, the New York and London, unfortunately I have never been there, I would love to visit them.

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

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!