November 19, 2009

Uganda Upgrades Road networks

By Aidah Nanyonjo

THE Gulu-Atiak road is to be upgraded to paved bitumen standard, Dan Alinange, the spokesman of the Uganda National Roads Authority, has said. Currently, the 74km-road located in Gulu and Amuru districts in northern Uganda, is a gravel road.

The works shall consist of upgrading the road to a class II standard paved road, with a double bitumen surface treated carriageway of 6.5 metres wide.

The road will have single surface-dressed shoulders of 1.5 metres on each side. The road construction will take 30 months that shall be followed by a defects-liability period of 12 months.

Alinange said the Gulu-Atiak road is an important link in the national road network and contributes significantly to economic growth of the region. “It forms an important international link with Sudan since it is the most direct route between Uganda’s capital Kampala and Juba, the principal town of southern Sudan.”

Alinange said the UNRA was in the process of hiring a consultant to supervise the construction of the road. The works ministry, under which UNRA falls, was allocated over sh1 trillion in this year’s budget to improve the road network.

The money will also be used to build new feeder roads.


November 13, 2009

Merger on Bitumen Business

Eurotank Belgium B.V., controlled by Dutch oil trader Vitol Holding B.V., to acquire control of Belgian bitumen producer Petroplus Refining Antwerp N.V. and Petroplus Refining Antwerp Bitumen N.V.

Soruce- Reuters

Road Construction Not Very Lucrative

PROFIT margins in the road construction industry are under pressure, Raubex Construction has revealed.

Raubex is a construction company with operations across Southern Africa.

According to engineering news, Raubex financial and commercial director Francois Diedrechsen attributed the lower profit margins in the construction industry to a sizeable increase in the number of companies vying for especially smaller contracts.

“This happens every few years. It is just history repeating itself. Usually, within a few years these companies are gone,” he said.

Recent tender results indicated that in order to secure new work locally, current operating margins in the company's Roadmac and Raubex Construction divisions would continue to be adjusted to account for the increased competition, particularly in the light road surfacing sector.

The company stated that in Zambia, conditions were more challenging due to exceptionally high rainfall impacting on the re-gravel contracts while Rehabilitation contracts with a high content of cement and bitumen were also affected negatively by supply issues. It further states that the strength of the South African rand against the Zambian kwacha resulted in increased input costs having a negative effect on operating margins.

Diedrechsen, however, said the company delivered a “satisfactory performance”, despite challenging conditions in the first half of the year.

“Our international expansion is progressing well following the successful establishment of our footprint in Namibia, and this has already led to further work being awarded to Raubex in that country. In addition, a number of new projects were secured locally following the interim period,” said Diedrechsen. “We expect the performance of the second half of the year to improve, and remain confident that our strong financial and operational position will allow the group to maintain its performance in the medium term.”

By Nchima Nchito Jr

November 6, 2009

Construction Failures

KOLKATA: Construction agencies, it seems, have not learnt a lesson from past failures. Flyover construction at the Dunlop junction and Nagerbazar on
Jessore Road has made life miserable for motorists, as the roads crumbled under the weight of heavy cranes and trucks. Though craters had formed at Gariahat, Chowringhee, AJC Bose Road and Taratala where such flyovers had been built in the past the agencies concerned began work at Dunlop and Nagerbazar without strengthening the rest of the road.

Engineers concede that strengthening the foundation of the roads along the construction site is the solution to prevent craters. Thereafter, one can either cap the bitumen surface with mastic asphalt or lay concrete to make them durable enough to carry the load of excess traffic.

"Since the width of the road gets narrowed, as a section is cordoned off for construction work, the traffic load doubles. Unless the road is strengthened, this section is bound to crumble under pressure. And, once a small crater appears, it widens, leading to potholes all over," said an engineer.

Often, the situation persists for years, as flyover construction requires shifting of underground sewerage and water pipelines. This makes life miserable for daily commuters along the stretch, slowing down traffic, causing traffic snarls and often leading to breakdowns.

Strengthening the roads is quite impossible when the project is in progress, as there is hardly any space to divert traffic," said the engineer. "But when the situation worsens, one has to stop construction and carry out repairs. Lack of planning is apparent in every project. This leads to overshooting project deadlines and excess expenditure," he added.

Apart from damage to roads by construction work, shoddy workmanship during road repairs often leads to formation of craters after the first light showers of monsoon. Construction engineers admit road laying and repair activity is ad-hoc, with no tests being conducted to determine the traffic load and the load-bearing capacity of the roads concerned.

"Uniform laying of bitumen and other materials is key to a durable smooth surface. To cut costs, most agencies do not use a vibrating roller while repairing road stretches. Poor quality of bitumen is laid in an uneven manner. Lack of proper grading leads to accumulation of water in the middle, triggering surface disintegration," said another construction engineer.

The arterial road that cuts across the state's showpiece satellite township, New Town, had crumbled within a year, revealing the absence of monitoring and poor quality of workmanship.

High-speed corridors like the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass and VIP Road get damaged each year, triggering fatal accidents. While VIP Road has had a mastic coating, that had improved the situation somewhat, the apathy towards EM Bypass continues.

"The only reason why the National Highways remain in good condition is that the guidelines for building them are strictly enforced and they are not dug up every now and then. If a section gets damaged, it is promptly repaired, so that it does not spread," said an engineer engaged in NH projects.

Experts say the main reasons why state highways and roads in the city don't last long is lack of proper supervision and technical guidance, combined with uncontrolled digging. "Contractors appointed for these projects either cheat on material or don't do a proper job unless supervised by professional consultants," said a construction engineer of an internationally renowned firm.

Civil engineers agree. "It is not that people here don't have the necessary expertise. But they are roped in for management. Therefore, projects get delayed and poor work ensures that the contractors get engaged again and again for repairs," said engineer Anjan Dutta.


November 2, 2009

Corruption at Bitumen Purchase

Three ministry of Roads employees and a company on Friday appeared in court charged with corruption.

Mr Richard Murigu, Ms Lucy Wanjiru, Mr Douglas Kiboi and Graw Enterprises denied the charges before Nairobi magistrate Cecilia Githua.

Mr Murigu and Graw Enterprises faced five charges of fraudulently acquiring Sh16 million from the ministry.

This, the court heard, they did by pretending that they delivered 450,000 litres of bitumen to Nairobi’s Wilson Airport on June 30, 2007.

Ms Wanjiru and Mr Kiboi each faced four counts of failing to comply with the law.

Graw Enterprises was said to have been paid about Sh6.5 million for the delivery.

Mr Kiboi allegedly issued a counter receipt voucher certifying that 150,000 litres of bitumen had been delivered by Graw Enterprises and received at the Wilson Airport depot on June 29, 2007.

The three accused had been arraigned in court on Wednesday, but did not plead to the charges after it emerged that the charge sheet was defective. The case will be heard on December 8 with a mention on November 13.

Source -