Strabag called in to help build highest bridge in Africa

A joint venture between Austrian contractor Strabag and Aveng Grinaker, a Port Elizabeth-based civil engineer, has won a $130m contract to build Africa’s highest bridge, in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa.

The N2 Wild Coast Bridge, designed by Danish architect Dissing + Weitling, will have a cantilevered structure that will be 1.1km long and rise around 220m above the Mtentu river.  

The contract was awarded to the duo by South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), who commented that Strabag had "extensive experience in major balanced cantilever methodology bridge construction". The agency added that it would be the first bridge in South Africa to be built on this scale.

How the bridge will shorten the N2 Wild Coast Road

Edwin Kruger, Sanral’s Bridge Network Manager, told Public Sector Manager magazine in July: "No South African firm has ever done a balanced cantilever bridge of this magnitude before. As such, South African tenderers have joint ventured with international firms to bring skills and expertise into the bridge’s construction."

The bridge, which will be near the town of Xolobeni, will carry the N2 Wild Coast road. It will shorten the route by 85km and cut travel time between the coastal cities of Durban and East London by up to three hours for heavy freight vehicles.

The road and bridge have been named a national priority by South Africa’s Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission, and is one of the 18 Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPs) set up in 2012 to plan the country’s economic growth.

The project is expected to reduce the Eastern Cape’s high unemployment rate. Sanral estimates that up to 8000 full-time equivalent jobs will be created over the construction period.

Construction will start in early November and the project is expected to take about 40 months to complete.

The Msikaba bridge is to be retendered after no qualifying bids were received at the first time of asking

Meanwhile, Sanral will retender the contract for the cable-stayed Msikaba bridge, which will be built near Lusikisiki about 50km north of the Mtentu, as the agency did not receive any compliant tenders by the 12 May deadline.

That structure, which was also designed by Dissing + Weitling, will have a main span of 580m, the second longest in Africa after the Maputo-Catembe Bridge in Mozambique.

The holder of the title of highest bridge in Africa at present is the 217m-high Bloukrans Bridge on the Western Cape.

Top image: The cantilevered Mtentu bridge (All images courtesy of Dissing + Weitling)

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  1. Typically of the South African Government, they have their priorities all back to front.

    Whilst this road shortening is certainly needed, the main road from Durban to Johannesburg, around the notoriously dangerous Van Reenens Pass, which can carry a thousand trucks per day to the countries biggest city, should be their number one most important task.

    The main plan, of forty years standing, through the nearby De Beers Pass was recently shelved, without any alternative proposal.

    Political corruption and ineptitude is the dearth of our fine land.

    Bruce Nel
    A farming resident, near Van Reenen.

  2. Excellent job for infrastructure and economic development. People would be better informed to support initiatives like this that contribute to job creation and economic expansion, rather than drag the SA government on mud for whatever they try to do for South Africa and South Africans.

    One thing that we need to examine carefully is why does SA have to source skills like the design of this bridge from foreign companies. It would have been better if the Danish firm that designed the bridge partnered with an SA firm to pass on the skills.

    Whilst it is important that SA get relevant skills from other countries; They need to be more mindful about capital flight as well. It is of utmost importance as well that the jobs that will be created during the 40 month construction duration are not low cost jobs, and that all the companies involved in the construction process leave a lasting positive contribution to the local people. CSR should be one of the things at the top of the project of this magnitude.

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