Bridge de­ba­cle in­evitable with lack of polic­ing of heavy, over­loaded trucks

Fiji Sun - - Comment - MAIKA BOLATIKI Feed­back: maikab@fi­jisun.com.fj

The Ta­mavua-i-wai Bridge de­ba­cle was a dis­as­ter wait­ing to hap­pen. Any­one any­where near our main roads will have seen the fast-grow­ing size of trucks and their loads. Any­one think­ing se­ri­ously about it would have won­dered about the im­pact this could have on our bridges and roads. Now any­one trav­el­ling along the Queens Road in and out of Suva knows. The bridge has been re­duced to one lane be­cause of the dam­age. The daily lives of the thou­sands of peo­ple trav­el­ling daily on this route have been dis­rupted by the con­se­quen­tial de­lays. Fiji Roads Author­ity has moved quickly to cut the risk of a dis­as­ter wait­ing to hap­pen. But now there is a headache for all mo­torists and com­muters who travel this route. That in­cludes work­ers, com­muters, com­pany ve­hi­cles and school chil­dren. Trav­el­ling time be­tween Suva and Lami or vicev­ersa dur­ing peak hours can stretch into hours. Jasper Singh, the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Shore Buses, said his buses are run­ning up to three hours be­hind sched­ule. And peo­ple were com­plain­ing.

Taxi driv­ers are re­fus­ing to take fares to places like De­lainavesi, Lami and Veis­ari.

This is be­cause the bridge has been par­tially closed to just to one lane as cracks have been de­tected by the FRA. Long queues of ve­hi­cles will be the norm at both ends of the bridge un­til re­pair works are com­pletely car­ried out. Work­ers on both ends of the bridge now have to change their wake-up times if they want to make to work on time. As for the stu­dents? A school teacher at a pri­mary school in Suva said stu­dents from the Lami side ar­rived at 10am and some just did not turn up at all. The FRA’s ad­vice – “We urge peo­ple to avoid us­ing the route in peak hours if pos­si­ble, use lo­cal shops and fa­cil­i­ties in Lami to avoid hav­ing to cross the bridge.” Why did this hap­pen? FRA has been clear in point­ing the fin­ger on over­loaded trucks and the lack of check­ing and con­trol on them. It has out­lined the dam­age they are do­ing to our roads and bridges.

It is ob­vi­ously frus­trated that this is al­lowed to hap­pen. It has no con­trol over this it­self. Were some peo­ple sleep­ing on their job by not check­ing the ve­hi­cle weights, es­pe­cially for big and heavy trucks? FRA is op­ti­mistic that the two lanes can open again in un­der a week. Its engi­neers will be work­ing around the clock to make this hap­pen. But how many other bridges are at risk? How many roads are be­ing dam­aged?

All be­cause these in­creas­ingly big and heav­ily loaded trucks are seem­ingly fac­ing lit­tle scru­tiny. Let’s hope ac­tion to rem­edy this will be swift. The Ta­mavua-i-Wai bridge de­ba­cle is a warn­ing sign that must be looked at with great ur­gency.

We the peo­ple are your never end­ing sup­port­ers to­wards win­ning that Gold medal in Rio.

Laise­nia Tuitubou

Min­is­ter for Youth and Sports

Photo: Ron­ald Ku­mar

Ful­ton Ho­gan Hi­ways staff keep­ing close watch on Ta­mavua-iwai bridge af­ter cracks were no­ticed on the bridge.

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