There are 8,735 bridges and culverts in South Africa.
These bridges are inspected every five years as part of a maintenance plan by route checkers, regularly checking for any defects. This is extremely important as if they are not checked, the damage to them could be catastrophic.
The Erasmusrand Pedestrian Bridge in Pretoria East has been discontinued for use and temporary measures have been put in place for pedestrians. The Bridge, used mostly by the Waterkloof High School learners, was quickly stabilized to avoid any possible collapse. On average, about 620 pedestrians use it on a daily basis during the week.
SANRAL’s Bridge Network Manager, Edwin Kruger, received a call from the City of Tshwane and told of a serious threat to users. Kruger quickly activated an emergency plan because people’s lives were in potential danger should the bridge collapse.
Engineers from SANRAL were quickly messaged to the area to assess the extent of the damage and it was decided that the bridge had to be closed immediately in the interest of road safety. Northern Region’s project manager for Ops and Maintenance, Oakley Van Eyk, said his team would investigate whether it was economical to repair the damaged bridge or build a new one completely.
He also said building a new bridge of the same size as Erasmusrand could cost SANRAL about R20 million, which includes the cost of managing traffic. On top of that, it would be a huge task to remove the bridge from a 10-lane highway, however, his team is still conducting a feasibility study to determine the best option, which could take three to six months before a new bridge is finalized.
It is not clear yet what the cause of damage is, however, over-height and over-wide vehicles were often the cause of damages to bridges and Van Eyk said this is a huge problem in the country and policing them is also a challenge.