A retired German engineer fears a bridge in Qormi risks collapsing but the roads authorities insist tests "showed there was no instant cause for concern".

Jurgen Sixt, a retired civil engineer, told The Times that the Qormi bridge - located close to the Maltapost head office - could be at risk of collapse unless instant remedial action is taken.

At least 17 of the 40 columns supporting the bridge are in dire need of maintenance and one was in "a very bad state", Mr Sixt claims.

The bridge, built in the late 1970s, provides a major road link between the centre of the island and the south, transporting tens of thousands of vehicles every day.

The director of the Network Infrastructure Directorate, Heinrich Simar strongly denied the engineer's claims and said that tests carried out on the bridge in question showed there was no instant cause for concern.

"It's nowhere as bad as the Regional Road bridge and nowhere near as dangerous as some people are making it out to be," he said when contacted.

He said the visible cracks in some of the columns were a result of vehicle accidents and air pollution. In due course, remedial action would be taken to strengthen both the columns and the joints on top of the bridge. This would however be part of a routine maintenance exercise.

"We don't want to waste taxpayers' money when there is no need for it. Any work on the bridge has to be adequate and justifiable," Prof. Simar said.

However, Mr Sixt said the bridge was "breaking piece by piece". He estimated that the columns could take between three and four years before possibly collapsing.

He said the corrosion of the steel embedded within the concrete columns was forcing the stone to crumble. Mr Sixt said he spent most of his life working on roads and especially bridges, overseeing several projects in Germany and Africa, before retiring in Malta.

He used a set of keys to prove what he said was the ease with which parts of the concrete columns were coming apart.

Cracks are also showing at the top, with fissures along the roadside extending to the top of the columns, he added.

The cost of maintaining the bridges would not break the bank, he argued. Reinforcement structures would have to be built, the loose concrete removed and the steel within cleaned from rust and repainted.

The life span of a bridge is between 30 - 50 years but it has to be regularly maintained especially when it is withstanding the weight of heavy vehicles.

The Manwel Dimech Bridge, along Regional Road, was recently established to be safe for the next 12 months so long as current traffic measures are adhered to. A French engineering society, which inspected the road earlier this year, had reported dangerous oscillations along the bridge, erected in 1971 with a lifespan of 35 years.

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