Demerara River bridge: Contract amended in favour of Houston-Versailles location says PPP/C Chief Whip

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-Dutch consultant warned location’s cost will be higher

The Houston-Versailles location identified for the new Demerara River bridge is among the primary reasons the project is pegged at an astronomical US$170 million – not including the supporting road network and other hidden costs.

An artist’s impression the vehicular flyover at Versailles, West Bank Demerara

Dutch consultant LievenseCSO, which was hired to undertake a feasibility study for the new project with an initial design, found that by moving the bridge to the Houston-Versailles location some 2.2 kilometres north of the current Demerara Harbour Bridge, it will in fact attract significantly more traffic when it comes to oceangoing vessels.

In order to allow for smaller vessels such as trawlers, the bridge will as a result have to be constructed with a clearance height of 17.5 metres, close to 60 feet above the high tide water level.

The consultant has documented in the findings of the feasibility report, “the main conclusion regarding river traffic is that the location strongly influences the river transit numbers”.
According to the findings, if the bridge will be positioned at Houston, the number of trawlers passing will be high.

But, with a bridge at the New Hope location, the number of oil tankers would be minimised and no trawlers at all would pass under the bridge, the consultant said.

As a result of the 17.5m elevation in the bridge, the approach roads will have to be constructed with an ascending angle of at least six per cent.

This means the height of the bridge necessitates a lengthy approach road complete with vehicular flyover, instead of what currently obtains at the existing bridge.

An artist’s impression of what the new Demerara River bridge will look like

The price tag identified in the feasibility study will include only a first phase for the approach roads meaning Government will have to foot the bill for the accompanying road network in order to use the bridge.

This past week the political Opposition again questioned the rationale behind the selection of the Houston-Versailles location.

People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary Gail Teixeira told media operatives that information coming to light suggested that the company had been asked to amend the Terms of Reference of the contract in favour of that location.

Teixeira was at the time speaking during a press engagement at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition.

According to the PPP/Civic Chief Whip, “in fact, part of the change in Terms of Reference, which we have not seen, or the contract, or the Terms of Reference of the contract that this Dutch company had, that in the process the Government started to change what the feasibility study would look at.”

Teixeira pointed out that the feasibility study – as was the case with the prefeasibility study undertaken under the previous Administration – was commissioned to research three sites.

This, she said, has not been contested and is in fact the official pronouncement on the project; “however, at some time in this process, the Government seems to have amended what were the terms of the contract for the feasibility study”.

The parliamentarian told media operatives that the consultant was instead directed to focus on the Houston-Versailles location, and “there are many questions why that would have been so”.

According to the PPP Chief Whip, there is no evidence of any public disclosure that the contract had either been terminated and renewed, or the original contract amended.

Opposition Leader and former President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has publicly said the location was chosen in order to have the bridge land at a property owned by coalition financier Stanley Ming in order to see Government paying him yet-to-be disclosed ‘compensation’.

Jagdeo has also railed against the cost of the project which the consultant pegged at US$170 million.

The hidden costs, however, have also been raising eyebrows in recent weeks, such as the likely US$80 million that will have to be added to the overall price tag for the accompanying road network.

Even more hidden costs that are expected to see the price skyrocketing even further and will in fact reorient the entire Demerara shipping passages.

According to the Dutch consultant, in case the bridge is positioned at Houston, it would affect the nautical procedures between the present harbour limit and the existing bridge alignment.

In the case of the river channel used by oceangoing vessels, a bridge at Houston will mean that the nautical procedures and ‘lead lines’ in the harbour area shall also have to be redesigned to ensure safe shipping.

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