China Railway wins $260m contract to build Demerara River Bridge in Guyana

The floating steel bridge, built in 1978, was funded by the UK government and only intended to last 10 years (Dan Lundberg/CC BY-SA 2.0)
A $260m contract to build the New Demerara River Bridge in the Guyanese capital of Georgetown has been signed between the country’s government and China Railway Construction.

Stabroek News reports that the design of the 1.8km bridge has not been finalised, but that it must be 50m above the water to avoid impeding shipping. The bridge it will replace, a floating structure completed in 1978, has to be retracted for several hours a day to allow ships to pass.

The signing represents a victory for China Railways over its fellow state-owned giant, China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC). The latter had been expected to win the design, build and finance deal, but its price was judged to be too high.

Juan Edghill, Guyana’s minister of public works, told guests at the signing ceremony on Wednesday that the deal was “monumental”.

He said: “There are going to be some inconveniences on the land side as well as well in the river, perhaps even in the air over the next two years, as piles are driven on the land and in the water or as sand is transported to the worksite, or as the towers are constructed to connect the cable section of the bridge, but at the end of the inconvenience, we will have achieved monumental progress and development.”

Ms Guo Haiyan, China’s ambassador to Guyana, said the span would promote regional development. She said: “We expect that through working hand-in-hand by all parties, the project will be smoothly promoted and completed with high quality as planned.”

The bridge will connect the Georgetown districts of Nandy Park and Meer Zorgen. As well as the four-lane bridge, road works will link the crossing with highways on the east and west side of the harbour.

Preparatory work is expected to begin at once while the design is finalised. When work begins on site, it is expected to continue for two years.

Plans for a fixed link were first announced in December 2015, and tenders were received from 23 international and local companies. However, these were superseded in August 2017 when a scheme to build a bridge 2km north of the existing link was put forward.

This was then dropped in favour of a crossing 6km south of the river mouth, at the same location as the floating bridge. Nine companies were in contention for this, including Ballast Nedam, Boskalis, Eiffage, Odebrecht and four Chinese teams.

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