SANRAL awards N2 Wild Coast bridge tender

The Mtentu Bridge is set to knock the Bloukrans Bridge off the pedestal of being the highest bridge in South Africa and one of the highest in the world.

The South Africa National Roads Agency (SOC) Limited (SANRAL) has awarded the tender for the much anticipated Mtentu Bridge, which forms part of the N2 Wild Coast road (N2WC) project.

Construction of the bridge is set to start in early November 2017, and is scheduled to run approximately 40 months.

Vusi Mona, SANRAL’s communications manager, said: “The tender, valued at R1.634-billion, has been awarded to the Aveng Strabag Joint Venture (JV). The JV partners consist of 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.”

At just over one kilometre, the Mtentu Bridge will be one of the longest main span balanced cantilever bridges in the world and will reach a height of approximately 220m. It is the first of its kind in South Africa at such a magnitude.

“Critically, it is going to create employment and business opportunities in the area. The whole of the project will be a growth engine for the Eastern Cape both during and post construction,” Mona said.

A major undertaking

The construction of the bridge in a remote location is a major undertaking that requires specialised engineering skills and building techniques.

The bridge forms the backbone of the greenfields portion of the N2WC road project, which is coordinated and directed by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission. It is one of government’s 18 Strategic Integrated Projects that support economic development and address service delivery in the poorest provinces.

The Mtentu Bridge and the overall greenfields portion of the N2WC road project will improve travel time, connect previously divided communities in the region and open up opportunities in business and community-based tourism for the Wild Coast.

Mona said: “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 underserved by road infrastructure, the route will have significant social and economic benefits and will act as a catalyst for local and regional development.”

Job creation

The N2WC road project will be a major job creator in an area with an extremely high unemployment rate.

SANRAL’s direct job creation forecast is 1.8 million man-days or 8 000 full time equivalent jobs over the four to five year construction period.

More than R400-million will be allocated to wages for unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled workers employed directly on the N2WC road project. A further R1.5-billion is destined for local SMMEs comprising local contractors and local suppliers of goods and services to the road and bridge construction projects.

“SANRAL’s R120-million community development and SMME training programme, which is currently underway, is providing local labour and local SMMEs with the necessary skills to optimally participate in this and other forthcoming N2WC road project,” said Mona.

New tender

Meanwhile, SANRAL has announced that the tender for the Msikaba Bridge, set for construction near Lusikisiki, will be retendered as the agency received no fully responsive tenders.

“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,” said Mona.

A new tender for the Msikaba Bridge will be advertised within the next two to three months.