Making the N6 from Rouxville to Smithfield safer

The project has created employment for 318 local workers to date.   

The expected completion is at the end of September 2020.

Work is on track on the upgrading of a 34-kilometre section of the much-used N6 between Rouxville and Smithfield in the Free State.  

The contract was awarded by SANRAL to construction firm WBHO and work began in June 2017.  

The expected completion is at the end of September 2020.  


The upgrade entails mostly realignment of the existing road.  

“While the horizontal alignment is mainly on the original footprint, there is a substantial amount of vertical realignment being conducted,” said WBHO contract manager, Russell Deenik.  

This  achieved by several cuttings  smooths out the undulations on the original road, and  required drilling and blasting.  

“Rock conditions vary from cutting to cutting, necessitating careful blasting techniques to obtain optimal fragmentation while conserving explosives and preventing fly-rock,” Deenik said.  

The result of the vertical realignment will be fewer blind rises on the route and a longer field of vision for motorists, generally improving the safety of the road.  

It will also reduce the number of climbing lanes necessary to accommodate overtaking of slower traffic.  

In another important safety improvement, the road is being widened to 12,4metres, including a generous shoulder on each side.  

Most of the road is being constructed in half-widths, where the traffic is moved onto a widened shoulder on the one side of the road while work continues on the other.  

Stop-go arrangements have been installed for traffic for single-lane sections of about four kilometres at a time.  

The main bridge on the route is over the Caledon River, and this was widened on the left and right to accommodate the new road width.  

To do this, piling was driven into the riverbed for new sub-structure footings, and both the piers and the abutments were extended on each side using precast beams to carry the extended bridge decks.  

Rebuilding with challenges 

Closer to the Rouxville side, the smaller bridge over the Eldorado River was demolished and rebuilt to larger dimensions. 

A significant challenge on the project has been the prevalence of mud-stone material at road-bed level at various points of the route.  

As the material is not fit for road building, an extra 300450mm was removed in places below roadbed level and replaced with a pioneer rock layer.  

Six burrow pits  including the main quarry  are spread evenly along the route and provide all the required material.  

To facilitate recycling, the existing road’s base and surfacing was reclaimed and stockpiled, to contribute 20% of the new sub-base layer after it has been mixed with new material.  

In terms of targeted labour, the labour force was sourced locally from the Xhariep District Municipality.  

The project has created employment for 318 local workers to date.  

There is a similar focus on creating opportunities for local enterprises, which make up 24 of the 31 sub-contractors on site.  

SANRAL Project Manager Jason Louw said the upgrade was on schedule.  

“The contractor is progressing well and is on track with the programme.”