A new suspension footbridge

Lt. Pedro Fernández Vicente
First published in
SFOR Informer#137, April 25, 2002

The French Engineer Platoon (FEP) of the French Battle Group (FRBG) built a suspension footbridge over the Neretva River in April. This bridge will join the villages of Djajici (South bank of the Neretva) and Spiljani (North bank). Time on the road will be reduced by more than an hour; getting from one village to the other will now take less than a quarter of an hour.

Djajici - A little suspension footbridge, which joins the villages of Djajici and Spiljani, was another victim of the war. For more than five years only four heavy metal wires remained as the solitary link between the two banks of the Neretva. This situation, however, changed last April, due to the work of the FEP of the 19th Régiment du Génie.
Rebuilding the bridge is the first part of a CIMIC operation in which the FRBG, and the European Union are involved; the second part will be the rebuilding of the Spiljani school.
Plan of work
"After the initial reconnaissance, we made the decision that we couldn't use any of the old metal wires and started planning our work. The first stage was to remove all the old cables, except one; this one was employed to launch the five new heavy metal slings. When we had this new cable over the river, we proceeded to anchor it to the pylon on the right-bank. The next stage was to reinforce the pylons, which were two old metal structures. Afterwards, we tightened the cables. Due to limited space we had to use two vehicles. We parked them on the road parallel to the river, we fixed a pulley to the truck parked in front of the bridge and we pulled with the Armoured Personal Carrier, in order to obtain enough tautness in the wires.
After anchoring them the longer phase began: laying the surface of the bridge. This consisted of a large number heavy planks anchored to three cables through five fixed points, covering all the bridge's surface. The last stage was to improve the access to the bridge, making steps and spreading a layer of stones on the access paths," said Lt. David Gomez, leader of French engineer platoon.
More problems than expected
Staff Sgt. Pascal Desremaux, deputy of the French Engineer platoon, underlined: "We planned to finish the work in three weeks, however, due to the bad weather with continuous rains in this period, we were delayed by a week. We had a really awful surprise the second week of April, when a big rock detached itself, falling onto our dining tent and destroying it. We were very lucky because there was nobody inside at that time. After that, and for safety reasons, we had to move our camp nearer to the river, to Spiljani School."
The result
"We have been working through the French Area of Responsibility for four months, but this labour has really been special for us. We have built up a very good relationship with the population of Spiljani and Djaciji. We built a physical bridge for them; with their friendship, they built an emotional bridge, which will link our heart to this village forever. We really felt love during our labour here" concluded Gomez.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: France
CIMIC

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Photo: Lt. David Gomez

The cutting of the last old metal cable, marks the beginning of a new stage.


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Photo: Lt. Pedro Fernández Vicente

The phase which lasted the longest was surfacing the bridge. Everybody in the platoon was involved.


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Photo: Lt. Pedro Fernández Vicente

Cpl. Christophe Martin is anchoring one big plank to build the bridge surface.


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Photo: Lt. David Gomez

The first stage was to remove all the old cables except one.