Bulgaria planned to shut down Danube Bridge on April 8 to allow transportation officials to assess the danger posed by a pothole that appeared in recent days, Bulgarian National Television (BNT) reported.
The pothole appeared over the weekend and grew rapidly, reaching about one metre at its widest, with the wet and rainy weather contributing to its expansion. One of the car lanes was closed to traffic and the speed limit on the bridge was reduced, but cars were still allowed to cross into Romania, BNT said.
Freight trucks weighing more than 10 tonnes were banned from crossing the bridge – the only one between Romania and Bulgaria over Danube River – creating a queue that stretched several kilometres long, Focus news agency said. Some trucks were already being diverted to the Svishtov-Zimnicea ferry, Trud daily reported.
The pothole had been covered with a steel sheet, but it would be up to transportation officials to decide whether urgent repairs were needed. The debris fell on the railway line under the car lanes and has been cleared, the reports said.
If the bridge were to be shut down for repair, the ensuing disruption of traffic would drive up the costs of freight companies, since they would have to send their freight trucks either on a lengthy detour eastwards through Constanta or have them cross the river at the Svishtov-Zimnicea ferry, which was more expensive than crossing at Danube Bridge, Focus quoted an industry official as saying.
Linking the towns of Rousse on the Bulgarian bank and Giurgiu on the Romanian side, Danube Bridge began operations in June 1954. In that time, it never underwent major repairs and there were several potholes covered with metal sheets on the lanes from Romania into Bulgaria, BNT reported.
With the impending opening of Danube Bridge 2 between Vidin in Bulgaria and Calafat in Romania, further upstream the Danube River, plans had been made to shut down the Rousse-Giurgiu bridge to carry out the much-needed repairs, BNT said.
Update: Following the inspection, it emerged that Danube Bridge would not shut down entirely because of the high amount of traffic and the dearth of detour options. Freight traffic, however, would not be allowed on the bridge until repairs are carried out. A timetable for repairs is expected to be announced in the coming days.
(Danube Bridge. Photo: garycycles7/flickr.com)