Demand for answers as secrecy, delays hamper audit after South Rd debacle
SOUTH Australians could still be driving on unsafe bridges for several months, but won’t know for certain until a statewide bridge audit has been completed.
Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan told The Advertiser a “handful of regular maintenance issues” had been identified, but the number and where they were would remain secret until all 1500 bridges, tunnels and culverts had been audited. And that will take substantial time given more than two thirds of those 1500 bridges have yet to be assessed by departmental staff and external engineers.
Mr Mullighan stressed the audit – commissioned in January in the wake of the failure of the South Rd overpass at Black Forest – had not uncovered any “significant issues”.
But Opposition transport spokesman David Pisoni said the public could not have any faith the issues had been fixed until proof was provided, given a major design flaw in the South Rd structure meant it was unable to cope with strong wind gusts.
“South Australians are entitled to know, given South Rd, what the factors are. It’s not good enough for the Government to be playing cat and mouse,” he said.
“Until Mr Mullighan releases the information, the public can’t have any faith. More than 400 reports have been done, so that’s 400 reports that should be released.” Mr Mullighan said the enormity of assessing all Government-managed bridges and bridge structures meant staff had only been able to assess “more than 400 structures”.
“The State Government has appointed external engineers to assist the department to review the bridges and to date, more than 400 structures have been assessed,” Mr Mullighan said. “We will be releasing the review once it is complete.” Civil Contractors Federation chief executive Phil Sutherland said he had expected the bridge audit to be a “rolling program” and updates to be released periodically. “We’re conscious of the South Australia’s bridge assets are quite old, with some up to 100 years old and many have been there for more than 50 years.
“As issues are identified they need to be addressed, but also made public as they go,” Mr Sutherland said. “The taxpayer is fully entitled to know the condition and safety of these very important assets.
“I don’t see why there should be any secrecy at all.” Mr Sutherland said he was bemused why the statewide bridge audit was taking so long to complete. “I would have thought it would have been progressed as a matter of urgency and that was certainly our expectation,” he said.
“There could be bridges in the mix in really bad condition that won’t be detected for some time.” Mr Mullighan previously told The Advertiser that regular bridge asset inspections would continue as scheduled while the audit took place.