Parliament to probe defects on new River Nile Bridge

PARLIAMENT | Legislators have set Friday as the day for on-site assessment of the quality of workmanship on the new River Nile Bridge.

The legislators on the Physical Infrastructure Committee will be visiting the bridge as part of investigating into allegations that the Nile Bridge has suffered structural defects just a few months after it was launched.

The Source of the Nile Bridge, also New Jinja Bridge, which was commissioned on 17 October 2018, by the President of Uganda, is a cable-stayed bridge across the Victoria Nile in Uganda. It replaced the Nalubaale Bridge, which was built in 1954.

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However, within a week of the commissioning, users noticed cracks on the surface as tarmac peeled off, but Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), the agency responsible for the management of the landmark infrastructure at the time explained that the cracks were just structural defect due to temporary asphalt.

In late December, a taxi overturned on the bridge, adding to public concenrs that the surface of the bridge was too bumpy.

However, UNRA’s media relations manager Allan Ssempebwa said it was a deliberate method of construction used by the contractors, adding that the peeling course was merely a ‘bumpy’ or a non-structural attachment and therefore not a defect on the bridge.

“It’s to be replaced with permanent asphalt as soon as investigation on structural behaviour is concluded and baseline data is formed. This will be done within the defect liability period before contractor leaves the site,” he said.

“At the moment, the contractor has completed all the tests and has embarked on plans to start application of permanent asphalt on the bridge deck but as a contractual requirement, they are preparing a trial section of asphalt on the bridge at the length of approximately 100m on both approaches of the bridge.”

However, an investigation by The Observer newspaper revealed that the cracks and bumps on the surface arose because the asphalt wearing course failed to bond with the concrete underneath.

The bitumen content in the asphalt seems to have been very high, The Observer quoted an anonymous engineer who worked on the bridge as saying.

“The combination of those two errors is the reason for the major deformations because the asphalt is shearing and sliding over the concrete,” the source said.

“The softness of the wearing course is a result of too much bitumen that deforms under the weight of traffic, especially heavy trucks. That’s why the lane from Kenya is more damaged than the one from Kampala.”

The newspaper also quoted Morris Odrua, the UNRA resident project engineer, as saying there was a loophole in procuring the right asphalt.

“The Germany manufacturer only started making it after the contractor placed the order. Most of it has come but before it is fully applied, the contractor had to be sure it is the real one. One month will be enough to gauge its performance,” he is quoted by The Observer as saying.

The concerns and media stories has since prompted UNRA back to the bridge to assess the defects, with works now underway to dig up the failed asphalt course and replace with new one.

The concerns and UNRA’s latest response saw MPs query the works, prompting Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to order the responsible House committee to probe workmanship on the bridge and table their report to Parliament.

The committee chairperson who is also the MP for Nakifuma county in Mukono District, Robert Kafero Ssekitoleko said that the committee after visiting the bridge site will interface with UNRA offocials and the contractor and understand why the bridge got defects in a shortest time after its completion.

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