Southern Express Highway
Posted on July 26th, 2009

Aloysius Hettiarachchi, Brunei

Dear Sir,

Please allow me to express my views on the above mentioned project.

We read about the debacle in the construction of seventy odd bridges in Matara expressway project in the media these days. According to these reports one of the bridges which were constructed recently has collapsed killing a bystander, as aresult the authorities have decided to demolish all the bridges and reconstruct them. This is the only expressway project being implemented in our country at a great cost to our people. It is the responsibly of those in power to make sure that the expectations of the people are met with due diligence. However from what we read, they (the governments) have not done their job. As someone engaged in the field of design and construction work in civil/structural engineering projects in different parts of the world for over forty years, I think I am qualified to comment and express my views in this subject.

Why there was no proper supervision on construction work?. We know that foreign consultants were appointed to supervise the job in addition to their local counterparts. There were another set of consultants appointed on an ADB funded loan to supervise the consultants supervising the construction work. Looking at the failure of a bridge killing an innocent person and the decision by the authorities to demolish all the bridges already completed, it seems to me that the whole thing is a big farce. At whose expense is it?. I understand that there are subcontractors of various nationalities down the line. Why was it not possible to get the assurance of the main contractor which is a reputed Japanese company to do the job themselves at the tender interview stage. The job was perhaps given to them on their reputation.

The bridges are constructed using concrete and steel. Both these items are tested before use. It is the normal practice in this type of projects to test each batch of concrete and even submit the statistical variation of test results to prove that right materials have been used consistently. If this was done there cannot be a failure unless it is a design fault. I think the authorities should disclose the names of contractors/ subcontractors, the consultants responsible and they should be black listed in our country.

Coming to an another point, this is an important highway in our roads network, if not the most important one. It had been originally designed and tendered out as a single carriageway (one lane in each direction). Considering the high volume of traffic already in Colombo Matara road the authorities should have got the approval of the government to construct a dual carriageway (two lanes in each direction with a centre median) without having to incur disproportionate cost escalations in the contract by trying to make it a dual carriageway later. To my mind this project has been mishandled by the authorities.

Aloysius Hettiarachchi,


One Response to “Southern Express Highway”

  1. jana Says:

    Whilst the poor suffer from high cost of living wastage of this nature is unacceptable.800million dollars on hedging debacle , another 200 million Dollars by the petroleum corporation by a defaulted transaction, Rs 70 million of drugs thrown in the bin because of poor quality,now 70 bridges to be replaced at what cost. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Is there no body responsible. Are the rulers deaf dumb and blind.

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