R1.634-billion Mtentu Bridge tender awarded

An architectural impression of the Mtentu Bridge.

THE R1.634-billion tender for the Mtentu Bridge, one of two mega bridges to be built as part of the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) N2 Wild Coast road project, has been awarded.

However, the second mega bridge, spanning the Msikaba River, is to be retendered.

About 80 percent of this new 560km route between Durban and East London will follow the existing R61. The two bridges will be part of approximately 90km of the new route, the so-called ‘greenfields’ sections.

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According to Sanral communications manager, Vusi Mona, the Mtentu Bridge tender had been awarded to the Aveng Strabag Joint Venture (JV). The JV partners were Aveng Grinaker-LTA, a major South African-based construction company, and Strabag, a leading construction company in Europe with extensive experience in major balanced cantilever methodology bridge construction. Building was set to start early in November and was scheduled to take about 40 months, he said.

The Mtentu Bridge will be a multi-spanned concrete structure approximately 1 130m long. It will comprise a 260m main span and two 150m secondary spans constructed as a balanced cantilever on the two main piers that will be approximately 160m high.

A further total of 570m of approach viaducts will be constructed on either side of the central three spans using incremental launching methods. It will be higher than the Bloukrantz Bridge, making it the highest bridge in Africa and the southern hemisphere once complete.

The second bridge will consist of a cable-stayed 580m-long structure spanning the deep Msikaba Gorge.

At 590m, its main span will be the longest main span in Africa and the southern hemisphere, although there are some southern hemisphere and African bridges that have longer total spans.

However, Mr Mona said there had been been no fully responsive tenders for this bridge.

“The Sanral board resolved that the roads agency was obliged to retender the bridge rather than condone matters of non-compliance found in the bids that were received,” Mr Mona said. A new tender for the Msikaba bridge would be advertised within the next two to three months.

The proposal to build the N2 Wild Coast toll road was first put forward more than 12 years ago and has been dogged by controversy. Local communities have expressed many social concerns and there have been objections from the green lobby as the greenfields sections, including the bridges, will be constructed through an extremely environmentally sensitive area. However, Sanral has always contended that the road would bring much-needed development to an impoverished area.

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Mr Mona described the project as a growth engine for the Eastern Cape, creating employment and business opportunities during and after construction.

Discussing the Mtentu Bridge, he said the construction of the 1.1km long bridge in a remote location was a major undertaking that required specialised engineering skills and building techniques.

The bridge formed the backbone of the greenfields portion of the N2 Wild Coast road project, he said. He described the project as a national priority under coordination and direction of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC). It was one of Government’s 18 Strategic Integrated Projects to support economic development and address service delivery in the poorest provinces.

The Mtentu bridge and the overall greenfields portion of the N2 Wild Coast road project would play a vital role in improving travel time, connecting previously divided communities in the region and opening up opportunities in business and community-based tourism for the Wild Coast.

“By improving the travel time between Durban and East London by up to three hours for heavy freight and by providing a high mobility route through an area that is extremely isolated and under-served by road infrastructure, the route will have significant social and economic benefits and will act as a catalyst for local and regional development,” he said.

The project would be a major job creator in an area with an extremely high unemployment rate.

Sanral’s direct job creation forecast was 1.8-million man-days or 8 000 full time equivalent jobs over the construction period of four to five years.

More than R400 million would be allocated to wages for unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled workers employed directly on the entire N2 Wild Coast road project, he said. A further R1.5 billion was destined for local small, medium and micro enterprises comprising local contractors and local suppliers of goods and services to the road and bridge construction projects.

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Judi Davis
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