Coast KZN

30 Nov 2022

No progress on N2 Umhlali and M4 Tongaat river bridges, work likely to only start next year

Juan Venter (North Coast Courier) Picture: The M4 Tongaat River bridge remains closed.

Lack of urgency, red tape and unfulfilled government promises mean repairs of the North Coast’s flood-damaged bridges on the region’s two key arterial routes remain at a complete standstill.

Despite assurances by relevant authorities that a temporary M4 bridge across the Tongaat River would have been opened by mid-November, and the damaged N2 Umhlali River crossing repairs completed early next month, no visible progress is being made. After more than seven months the tender processes have not even been finalised with no imminent relief for commuters and the business sector in sight.

Apart from the ongoing serious negative economic impact the delays are causing, especially now on the eve of the festive season, recurring traffic jams and accidents at both sites have been a source of frustration to road users.

The N2 northbound at Umhlali has been closed since the April floods, with no visible progress being made in its repair. iLembe Chamber of Commerce CEO Cobus Oelofse warned that the negative impact on business would not be mitigated anytime soon.

“This is a hugely frustrating matter for the Chamber, which has led engagements with the different road authorities to facilitate the implementation of a solution as soon as possible,” said Oelofse.

“Apart from the impact on trade, access to the KZN North Coast will be severely hampered, being limited to a restricted and vulnerable N2,” he said.

“Traffic congestion, especially into the main retail nodes of Ballito, is highly likely and as part of our festive season preparations we continue to negotiate with the necessary authorities.”

At an iLembe Chamber stakeholder meeting in August, it was revealed that a temporary solution in the form of a steel bridge would be constructed on the M4. Sanral at the time said the tender appointment process would be concluded by mid-September, but tenders have yet to be awarded.

Ballito’s Ward 30 councillor, Jack Abrahams, confirmed that a second tender had gone out for evaluation owing to the failure of the first. During an oversight visit by Sanral in September it was said that repairs on the N2 northbound Umhlali bridge would begin in October, taking about three months to complete.

The Courier inspected the bridge last Thursday and found only five Sanral employees walking along the road.

The M4 Tongaat River bridge repairs have been delayed until a re-tender process has been completed.

Salt Rock’s Ward 22 councillor, Privi Makhan, said it was unconscionable that the busiest economic route on the North Coast remained hampered by bureaucratic red tape. In an update from Sanral to the councillor, it was said that tenders were at the final stages of evaluation for the N2.

A Sanral report on November 11 said they were delayed in the appointment of an independent consultant for the technical rates analysis and hoped to have the matter finalised in the next two weeks.

The M4 bridge at Tongaat remains closed, although opportunistic motorists have continued to cross it in the past few months.
Photo: Wayne Johnstone.

However, the latest report dated November 23 painted a bleak picture with no appointments being made as yet and work likely to only begin in the new year.

“Despite government’s reassurances post the April floods to expedite repairs and ensure fast-tracked tender processes, road users remain inconvenienced and at risk,” Makhan said. Sanral had not responded at the time of going to print.

Early this morning (Wednesday) comment was received from the Sanral project manager in charge of the two projects. Trevor Zumani explained they had to re-tender for the M4 Tongaat River bridge, owing to an apparent lack of submissions received during the initial tender process.

“We hope to award the tender by mid-December and construction to begin early in the new year,” Zumani said.

He added that while the tender for the N2 Umhlali River bridge repair closed in September, this was yet to be awarded.

“We hope this will also be done by mid-December and construction beginning early next year.”

NOTE: The online version of this story differs from the print version. This is owing to late comment being received from Sanral, which is reflected above.