After 100 years, bridge taken for repairs

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 April, 2008, 12:00am

Shanghai yesterday began moving a century-old bridge for repairs as part of a massive infrastructure project aimed at revamping the waterfront Bund district ahead of the World Expo in 2010.

Workers lowered the southern section of the Waibaidu Bridge on to a barge waiting below, watched by scores of spectators at the mouth of Suzhou Creek. Other boats then nudged the barge along the Huangpu River, as the bridge headed to a local wharf to await repairs.

'It was extremely smooth. From entering the area to lifting it [the bridge] from below took only around four hours,' said Ye Jinwen, the chief engineer for the project.

The city will remove the northern portion of the steel bridge within the next two days, based on the tides, local media said. The bridge will be reinforced and returned to its original position before the World Expo.

The restoration of the bridge is part of a larger project that includes building a 3km tunnel under the Bund and Suzhou Creek and dismantling a highway ramp. The project is aimed at relieving traffic congestion on Shanghai's most famous stretch of real estate.

The bridge, completed in 1907 and opened to traffic in early 1908, is a Shanghai landmark, but also a reminder of its colonial past. It was previously known as the Garden Bridge.

'This is something that represents Shanghai's culture. Repairing it will extend the life of the bridge,' said one of the many local residents who lined the banks of the river to watch the spectacle.

However, the bridge also has darker associations for Shanghai's older residents. There is a widespread belief that foreigners used to cross the bridge for nothing while Chinese had to pay.

In his book The Bund Shanghai, author Peter Hibbard said foreigners could pay on an annual basis while Chinese had to pay in cash each time they crossed. The bridge used to link the foreign settlement, which had spread from the Bund to the north across the creek.

After the outbreak of the Sino- Japanese war in 1937, Japanese soldiers stationed at the north end of the bridge harassed Chinese citizens trying to cross.

The earliest bridge on the same site dated to 1857. The steel structure of the current bridge was made by the Cleveland Bridge Company in Britain.