When the SA Army Engineer Formation’s stock of World War Two Bailey bridges ran down to zero, with all components having gone into rural areas to provide access to services including clinics and schools, this opened the door for an Edenvale company that is now producing similar parts in what is called “a South African bridge for Africa”.
“The last nine bridges erected were totally South African,” said BSE Distributor’s Elliot Marcinko adding his company continued to work with military engineers and the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, via its expanded public works programme (EPWP), to erect the bridges.
“As matters stand at present the department approaches the Army engineers who then undertake a site inspection. Following this we come in to determine length and type of bridge best suited to a particular site in consultation with Public Works and the military.
“We supply bridge parts and all materials for construction including tools, personal protective equipment and gabion baskets. The military take delivery and move to site and erect the bridge with their team and local labour.” BSE Distributors has been refurbishing and supplying the Department of Public Works and the South African National Defence Force on the Bailey bridge programme since 2009.
The original Bailey bridge components, acquired to build bridges for military use, are part of the Bailey M2 bridge system first brought into service during World War Two and used extensively by British, Canadian and US military engineers in many theatres.
The Army Engineer Formation has, since democracy, put the bridge components to civilian use with bridges across inhospitable ravines and rivers mostly in the Eastern Cape. Bridges have also been erected in northern Gauteng and the KwaZulu-Natal interior.
The rural bridge initiative, known as the National Bailey Bridges Intervention Programme, is a partnership, with the private sector contribution coming from BSE Distributors and the public contribution from the SA Army’s engineers in uniform and Minister Patricia de Lille’s department.
The success of the programme to date earlier this month saw De Lille tell guests at a bridge opening another eight would be built and installed in the Eastern Cape in the 2020/21 financial year. KwaZulu-Natal is set to get four more Bailey-type bridges and a further 14 sites for bridges have been identified in the Eastern Cape.
The contribution made by installation of the “instant bridges” in rural parts of South Africa and the Ministerial nod of approval for more augur well for BSE which is also marketing the bridges, completely made in South Africa, to African countries where rural communities need access to facilities. These range across the spectrum of typical South African rural needs and include clinics, education, shops for goods and access to transport such as buses and taxis.