Public Works and Infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille is an enthusiastic proponent of Bailey bridges to the extent she has committed to the installation of eight of the bridges in Eastern Cape in the 2020/21 financial year.
De Lille made the announcement earlier this month when handing the newly built Nkobongo bridge to the Eastern Cape provincial government.
She told those present the provision of bridges, especially in inaccessible rural areas of provinces such as Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, was part of the “national Bailey bridge intervention programme” to improve safe access to basic services. These include schools, clinics, police stations and the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA).
The bridges are provided and installed where needed by the SA Army Engineer Formation and according to de Lille, the first phase of the programme saw 23 Bailey bridges go up to span rivers, ravines and gorges in Eastern Cape. The average cost per bridge is between R5 and R8 million, she said, adding demand for the bridges, first developed for use in World War Two, was “determined by input from the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) which requested the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) to assist with implementation of Bailey bridge intervention programme to swiftly respond to flooding disasters”.
Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State have been identified as priority areas due to “strong rainfall, flooding and overall inclement weather conditions”.
The wider eThekweni Metro in KwaZulu-Natal is slated to receive four Bailey bridges in 2020/21 with a further 13 sites identified in Eastern Cape, with De Lille pointing out “budget for these is being finalised”.
While the Public Works and Infrastructure Minister is upbeat about not only the bridges, but also the skills transfer opportunity provided during erection, it remains to be seen just how many Bailey bridges the Sappers have.
As far back as 2012, then SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Joint Operations Chief, now retired Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi warned the military was running out of bridges. He is reported as saying the stock of bridges used to assist communities would make is “difficult” to maintain bridge building going ahead.
The potential end of Bailey bridge stock in the Engineer Formation saw Mabey Bridge present its Mabey logistic support bridge as a replacement. Mabey Bridge is represented in South Africa by ECM Technologies.