Bridge construction is at the heart of VSL’s experience and expertise in providing innovative, reliable solutions and acting as a specialist partner to owners and contractors.

  • Hunter Expressway - Focus: Precast pier construction
    Use of VSL’s innovative match-cast precast segmental pier solution to achieve fast-track construction.
    Australia - 2012 read more

    Hunter Expressway - Focus: Precast pier construction

  • Cau Cau Bridge
    Installation of South America's first bascule bridge.
    Chile - 2014 read more

    Cau Cau Bridge

  • Catumbela Bridge - Focus: Saddles
    Using a VSL Saddle to keep each strand of cable free and completely independent.
    Angola - 2009 read more

    Catumbela Bridge - Focus: Saddles

  • C5 Ortigas Extension Interchange
    Precasting, launching and VSoL® wall construction for a 22-span flyover.
    Philippines - 2003 read more

    C5 Ortigas Extension Interchange


Each bridge is a unique structure

The method of construction normally goes hand in hand with bridge design and both depend upon many factors and constraints. These include - but are not limited to - economy of construction, availability and cost of local resources, environmental issues (such as traffic and protected areas), the geography of the landscape (including valleys on land or the depth of the sea bed for marine structures), the ground bearing capacity and quality, and other design requirements such as geometry, loadings and planned service life. As such, every bridge is indeed a prototype, and its shape and layout result from the careful consideration of all these factors.

VSL has evolved from a specialist post-tensioning company into a multi-discipline bridge partner, capable of providing contractors and engineers with construction and engineering services for highly complex and demanding projects.

VSL has extensive experience and expertise in bridge construction, with more than 100,000 precast bridge deck segments erected over the last 20 years. This represents more than 5,000,000m² and includes more than 150 cable-stayed bridges, some of which are among the world’s longest. VSL develops project-specific construction systems and methods that promote highly efficient rates of construction and help ensure that programmes are met while maintaining - and indeed enhancing - essential safety and quality control measures.

VSL’s products and services

VSL provides turnkey bridge construction services from pre-tender design assistance to execution of the entire project, including:

  • Conceptional design, design optimisation and alternatives, detailing and construction engineering
  • design, supply and installation of post-tensioning
  • design, supply and installation of stay cables
  • design, fabrication and commissioning of specialised formwork and erection equipment for bridge construction, using techniques including span by span, balanced cantilever (precast or in situ), incremental launching, the precast beam method, full-span precasting and heavy lifting
  • management and operation of the above for the full construction of bridges
  • design and implementation of protection solutions, including blast protection for bridge structures.

Advantages of VSL’s services

  • VSL is committed to providing full support during the development and execution of the project and offers a flexible contracting approach from a straight sub-contract to a fully integrated partnership, such as joint ventures or alliances.
  • World leader in specialist bridge construction engineering and associated technologies and services
  • A strong local partner belonging to an international group
  • Access to a wealth of experience and expertise through VSL’s technical centres, which provide support from preliminary design to construction engineering
  • Availability of a large pool of equipment that can be customised using VSL’s own engineering and operational resources to suit each project’s needs
  • A team of specialists capable of rapid mobilisation for any fast-track and/or complex project

Contributing to sustainable solutions

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  • Concrete bridges are economical structures both at the time of construction and in use, as their maintenance requirements are lower than for equivalent steel structures.
  • VSL’s technical capabilities allow the reuse of items of heavy equipment through customisation to meet different project configurations.
  • VSL’s designs aim to reduce the amount of waste material, minimise the social impact of congestion caused by construction, and cost less per year of service over the life of the bridge.
  • The stay cables are designed to resist the most aggressive environments and are fully replaceable, should it prove necessary.
  • VSL’s dampers for cable-stayed bridges mitigate fatigue thus avoiding long-term damage and extending the structure’s service life.
  • A VSL strand lifting unit has a capacity to lift 300-500 times its own weight. As such, the resources required to mobilise the equipment are minimised, which helps make heavy lifting an environmentally friendly solution.
  • Strengthening a bridge or viaduct enables VSL to extend its life, enhancing the capacity to accommodate new loading requirements.
  • Special tendon protection is available, including electrically isolated tendon (EIT) solutions for an extended life.


VSL's tested, certified and patent pending Fire Protection solution for cable supported structures is suitable for either new build or retrofit applications. It is a fully integrated solution that is durable, aesthetic, easily inspectable and modular in design making it simple and cost effective to maintain and replace elements as required. The Fire Protection system is designed to mitigate damage to cable-stay bridges, suspension bridges and other cable supported structures in the event of a hydrocarbon fire or extreme temperature incident.

Advanced Fire Protection for Cable-Support Structures

As a pioneer in cable-stay bridge construction, VSL has a strong heritage and passion for building and protecting cable-supported infrastructure assets all over the world. As the construction of bridges and the environments they operate in become more complex and demanding as traffic flows increase, the need to protect these iconic and strategic structures is critical. The catastrophic risk of damage and disruption to these structures from fire, is real and ever present

Ensuring the structural integrity and timed serviceability under a fire event is an essential requirement for asset owners and a none-negotiable obligation for infrastructure operators. VSL’s Fire Protection system provides a practical and cost effective solution and should be “front of mind” for all owners, designers and asset managers.

VSL's products and services - Fire Protection

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VSL has a tested, certified and patent pending Fire Protection system for cable-support bridges for both new build and retrofit projects. The system is a fully integrated solution that is durable, aesthetic, easily maintainable and modular. It is simple, cost effective and easy to install and maintain.

VSL Fire Protection system is tested in the “worst case scenario” with exposure to intense hydrocarbon temperature-time fire curves, successfully satisfying the guidelines issued by the Post Tensioning Institute (PTI) and other international guidelines.

VSL has delivered Fire Protection for several projects around the world, including structures throughout the USA and Europe.

Advantages of VSL's offer

Fully integrated Fire Protection solution for stay cables

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The VSL Fire Protection system has been developed to be fully integrated and detailed for stay cable bridges. The system can be installed on new and existing structures as a fully integrated solution.

VSL’s Fire Protection System provides thermal protection for support cables exposed to extreme fire events. The protection system encapsulates and protects the cable stay or other cable support system from the adverse effects of thermal loading arising from a fire event, ensuring the structural integrity of the asset is sufficient to prevent structural damage. The Fire Protection system is achieved through the integration of specially developed products and is installed to the cable elements in either a new build or retrofit situation.

The VSL Fire Protection system:

  • Covers the existing standard HDPE stay pipe
  • Utilises outer HDPE pipe to maintain stay aesthetics and provide added durability
  • Integrates with the standard deck assembly Anti Vandalism Pipe (AVP) or additional protective armouring, as required

Fully tested, certified and compliant

The VSL Fire Protection System is currently Patent Pending inclusive of USPTO and PCT.

Tested in accordance with:

  • ISO 834 | Cellulose curve
  • EN1991 | Hydrocarbon curve
  • UL1709  | Rapid-rise Hydrocarbon Curve

Certified in accordance with

    PTI 45 DC. 1-12 | Fire Resistance Qualification Testing

Lower lifecycle cost

Lifecycle cost is significantly lower than existing solutions due to the ease of installation, inspection, maintenance, and repair / replacement of the cable system. As it is a fully integrated system, implementation does not adversely impact construction timelines or cable system specifications.

Easy to install, inspect, maintain and repair

The VSL Fire Protection System is designed to maintain durability and functionality of the cable stay or cable support system.

  • Comprises composite layering
  • External coverings provide additional durability and allow for ease of installation
  • Is resistant to water (hydrophobic)
  • Modular design allows simple maintenance / replacement
  • Maintains cable aesthetics
  • Is highly durable
  • Vandal or tamper proof
  • Accommodates cable dehumidification systems
  • Can be inspected in-situ
  • Fully integrates with other protective measures, as required

Suspension bridges

Fire Protection for suspension bridges

  • The VSL Fire Protection System design can be integrated to suit the requirements of suspension bridges including the complexities of the cable clamps and hanger systems.
  • The fire protection system is installed directly around the main cable to provide protection up to the required height above deck.

The VSL Fire Protection System for protection suspension cables incorporates:

  • Main suspension cable protection
  • Cable clamps and cable hanger protection
  • Outer shell elements combined with Fire Protection are secured around the cable clamps
  • Outer shell elements maintain cable durability and functionality while encasing the fire protection along the cable length
  • Allowance for services, dehumidification systems and other cable accessories, as required


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Post-tensioning of concrete plays a vital role in bridge construction. The recent increases in span lengths have been made possible by this technology, which has allowed bridges to evolve from essentially compressed structures of masonry and arches to thin and elegant designs. Post-tensioning is generally used to secure the concrete elements together during construction as well as forming part of the permanent structure.

On bridge deck structures, the layout of the post-tensioning varies greatly with the methods of segmentation and construction.

GC anchorage

More on Post-tensioning Strand system

More on Post-tensioning Bar system

Stay cables

Stay cables are high-tensile tendons anchored at the deck and running inclined to a pylon that supports the structure from above. They allow structures to be light and efficient, and to span very long distances of 1,000m and above.

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River Leven Bridge
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Industrial Ring Road

More on Stay cables system

Hydrocarbon fires from gasoline spills

The risk of fires and the potentially catastrophic effect on cable stay and cable supported bridges has been largely ignored over the past 30 years, most likely due to the perceived low likelihood of such events and the general unavailability of suitable integrated solutions or products. Fuel tanker accidents form the risk basis of a catastrophic fire event and there have been numerous occurrences of such events on bridges due to tanker accidents. Hydrocarbon fires resulting from tanker spills can burn intensely (> 1,100 degrees Celsius) for up to 2 hours and are typically pool fires that can engulf numerous cables.

Temperature effects on stay cable strands

High tensile steel strength is significantly reduced when exposed to temperatures above 300°C. Temperature exposure below 300°C does not significantly affect yield stress (EN1992-1-2: 1995). It is therefore conventional to recommend a design of the Fire Protection such that the high tensile steel used for the bridge cables (strand or wire) is not exposed to temperatures exceeding 300°C.

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The height of exposure in a fire event is difficult to predict and conventionally defined by a specialist consultant with a typical range between 10 to 20m above deck. Common fire protection duration range from 45 to 120 minutes and are based on a variety of parameters such as deck design, traffic type and access for firefighting measures or response teams. Fire temperature is well defined based on a hydrocarbon source up to a typical 1100°C.

VSL Fire Protection System

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How it works

Integrated Fire Protection Components

Fire protection of a cable stay system is achieved through the integration and design of specially developed and structured fire-resistant products to protect the main cable components from thermal loading.

Deck Connector
  • Internally integrated into the Anti-Vandalism Pipe
  • Ability to remove for cable stay system maintenance/inspection
  • Does not adversely affect damper performance
  • Allows for damper movement
  • Suitable for new construction or retrofit including varying deck connector details
Exposed Guide Pipe
  • Internally integrated into the Anti-Vandalism Pipe
  • Ability to remove for cable stay system maintenance/inspection
Free length
  • Modular FP blankets wrapped directly onto standard HDPE stay pipe
  • Designed to provide ease of rapid installation
  • Utilises outer HDPE pipe for added durability and to maintain cable aesthetics
  • Protection caps for exposed anchorages
  • Ability to remove, inspect and re-install
  • Applicable to varying anchorage orientations

VSL Fire Protection system can be applied to new cable supported bridges and as a retrofit to existing structures

Fully Tested and Compliant

VSL Fire Protection system is tested and compliant with PTI guidelines when exposed to a hydrocarbon temperature-time curve for durations of 45, 60, 75 and 90 minutes.

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Heavy lifting

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VSL’s Heavy lifting method is very effective for bridge construction, where loadings are generally high and elements often have to be erected at a considerable height. As a result, segments of a bridge deck can be constructed at ground level and then lifted into position using heavy lifting methods. Heavy lifting equipment may also be used as part of specialist systems, such as the lifting frames of erection gantries, where it can be used to replace heavy winches.

More on Heavy lifting

Stonecutters Bridge

Formwork and specialised equipment

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High Speed Rail C215

Bridges are generally large and complex structures built to span obstacles and as such their construction requires specialised equipment and methods.

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Hodariyat Bridge

For precast bridges, specialist formwork systems are used to produce the complex and heavy structural elements such as beams, segments or even full spans. These are then transported and erected using large and sophisticated equipment such as gantries and lifting frames.

Specialist heavy equipment also has to be deployed for bridges that are cast in situ. This ensures efficient construction that takes account of the methods, cycles and loads required.

More on Formwork and specialised equipment

Bearings and movement joints

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Bridges are substantial structures that are subject to external forces and affected by weather conditions. As such, they are designed to accommodate changes and normally rest on special bearings allowing horizontal and/or vertical movements. They are connected to the rest of the structure with expansion joints, which allow for thermal movement and horizontal displacement due to external loadings.

Movenement joints

More on Bearing

More on Movement joints

Precast or in-situ construction

Few bridge decks can be poured in a single operation. Most are constructed in stages, with the decks generally formed from elements by dividing them either longitudinally into beams or transversely into segments. Some very wide structures may be divided in both directions. Other methods can include working with larger elements for the construction of full spans.

Bridge elements are either precast before erection or cast in their final position. There are different methods available for activating the bridge deck’s structural performance progressively so that it becomes self-supporting.

The precast elements are usually erected using specialist equipment adapted to suit the method of construction. They are then secured together using post-tensioning.

Bridge deck segmentation

Example of longitudinal segmentation

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N-S Link
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Palau Island Bridge

Segments may be I beams, U beams or T beams.

The segments are generally precast and erected by crane or by special erection equipment, such as a gantry or lifting frame. They may also be cast in situ, although this is rare.

Precast I or T beams are normally topped with a concrete layer that is cast in situ to tie together all of the elements. This also provides the running surface for the traffic as well as forming a compression member for the structure when in service.

Example of transverse segmentation

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The choice of segmentation leads to different erection methods, which also depend on whether the structure is to be cast in situ or precast.

Various methods are available for the construction of cast-in-situ schemes:

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  • span by span on falsework
  • span by span on a movable scaffolding system (MSS)
  • the free cantilever method (FCM)
  • the incremental launching method (ILM)

Precast segmental schemes are constructed using the methods of:

  • span by span, erected over falsework or using erection gantries (overhead or underslung)
  • the free cantilever method (FCM), using cranes, lifting frames or gantries
  • fully precast deck, using special launching equipment

Segments can consist of either single or multiple cells :

Transversally, decks can be made up of one of more segments:

Telok Blangah road - Singapore – 2000-2001
Telok Blangah road - Singapore – 2000-2001
Telok Blangah road - Singapore – 2000-2001
Telok Blangah road - Singapore – 2000-2001
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Second Gateway Bridge, Brisbane

The economics of building a bridge depend upon the balance between various parameters including span lengths, site constraints, available budget, aesthetics, deck height and the choice of bridge type.

Depending on the construction method, it is generally accepted that the most economical type of bridge for a given span length follows some general guidelines:

  • Post-tensioned precast or in-situ bridges for span lengths from 30m to 150m. Precast beam bridges can span up to 50m and are recognised as being the most economical. Precast segmental bridges are visually more pleasing and allow longer spans. Within that range, span-by-span construction allows bridges to be built with spans up to about 50m, while the balanced cantilever method allows them to reach 150m or more.
  • Arch bridges, for spans up to 500m
  • Cable-stayed bridges, for spans up to about 1,000m
  • Suspension bridges, for spans of up to approximately 2,000m

The above classification may vary and limits are pushed ever further as calculation methods and material performance evolve over time. However, a different bridge type may be chosen for a given span in order to meet other primary requirements such as budget considerations, aesthetics or site constraints.

VSL combines all its available technologies very effectively to provide a complete range of construction methods for precast segmental, cast-in-situ and cable-stayed bridges.

1. Precast segmental applications

1.1. Balanced cantilever erection with launching gantry

1.2. Balanced cantilever erection with lifting frames

1.3. Balanced cantilever erection with cranes

1.4. Span-by-span erection with launching gantry

1.5. Precast beam method

1.6. Full-span precast method

1.7. Span-by-span erection on falsework

2. In situ construction applications

2.1. Incremental launching method

2.2. Form-traveller method

3. Heavy lifting applications for bridge construction

For economic or technical reasons, today’s bridge structures are frequently assembled from large, heavy, prefabricated elements.

VSL Heavy Lifting often provides the most effective solution, particularly for projects in which cranes or other conventional handling equipment cannot be used because of excessive weight, dimensions or space limitations.

Advantages include:

  • Economy and efficiency through custom-designed solutions
  • Suitable for any height and any load
  • A high level of safety as the load is always secured mechanically
  • Reliability based on 35 years of extensive experience
  • High degree of flexibility, with lifting units ranging from 10t to 600t capacity
  • Lifting levels and loads are managed to extremely tight tolerances through precision monitoring using a computer-aided control system
  • Very high capacity in relation to the equipment’s self weight

The method is best suited for projects where it is an advantage or a requirement to assemble part or all of the bridge at one location prior to moving or lifting it into its final position. It allows erections in situations where the assembly weight or dimensions are such that they cannot be handled by traditional cranes or lifting equipment. This is often the case for large full-span bridges that need to be assembled away from their final position because of traffic or other local constraints such as a river. The can then be transported or floated to below their final position ready to be lifted into place.

Construction services:

VSL plans lifting, horizontal jacking or lowering operations and designs the necessary temporary structures to suit the requirements of each project. Sound engineering, clear thinking, the ability to innovate, and years of successful experience provide a guarantee of reliable and cost-effective solutions.

VSL’s first priority is the safety of personnel and components. Specialised hydraulic lifting equipment is designed for the highest level of reliability, and all equipment is rigorously tested and serviced through VSL’s quality control and maintenance programme. VSL field services are also based upon a total commitment to safety.

The extensive experience of VSL personnel and the company’s exceptional track record in the field provide further assurance of reliable performance.

Flexibility using VSL equipment

VSL’s range of equipment provides the capability to lift or lower single loads well in excess of 10,000t. It includes a large choice of hydraulic jacks, pumps, control units, monitoring devices and modular lifting/jacking frames, giving VSL both the capacity and flexibility to perform virtually any project requiring lifting, lowering or horizontal jacking.

The VSL service package

VSL offers a complete range of services for the planning, engineering, equipment supply and execution of any heavy lifting project. VSL Heavy Lifting services can provided throughout the world and include:

  • Feasibility studies and preliminary consultation for lifting, horizontal jacking and lowering operations;
  • Project design and planning, equipment specification, scheduling and budgeting;
  • Design, manufacture and supply of any special equipment and temporary structures required;
  • Leasing and operation of VSL equipment;
  • The execution of works planned either by VSL or other parties.

The planning of a heavy lifting operation should be started as soon as possible. Early involvement of VSL specialists will result in a handling scheme that optimises the project for economy, efficiency and schedule.

VSL reference projects include
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Stonecutters Bridge
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Sheik Zayed bridge

4. Cable-stayed bridges

VSL’s Fire Protection system was designed with multi strand cable stay bridges in mind, where light weight and flexibility are essential. However, it can equally be applied to rigid stays (bars), suspension bridges and or any other cable supported structure as well as to exposed post tensioning cables or anchorages, both in new build and retrofit applications.

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New bridge across the Hudson River, NYC, USA - Stay cable Fire Protection
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Europe Nuclear Energy Facility - PT Anchorage Fire Protection

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