Manual retraction of Berbice bridge causing long delays

– repairs could see closure for a few days

Commuters in Berbice are likely to face the horrors of crossing the river with the ferry again; at least for a few days when the retractor span on the Berbice River Bridge is closed for repairs.

Stabroek News understands that the retractor span is currently being operated manually with a temporary mechanical jack which lifts the two ends. This procedure has been causing delays with the reopening.

Reports are that a hydraulic system is needed for the job and it is expected to be in the country within a week. The installation would take a few days resulting in the closure of the bridge during that period.

Contacted, Minister of Transport Robeson Benn told this newspaper that he had heard that the bridge would have to be closed to facilitate repairs to the retractor span.

However, he said there is no confirmation as he has not yet received a document. As of now, the minister said, he is treating the information as a “rumour.”

Chief Executive Officer of the Berbice Bridge Company Inc, Omadat Samaroo, in an invited comment admitted that the company had “observed some problems with the retractor span” and was monitoring the situation.

He said, “it is in the drawing board for redesign but it would not happen at this point… it may be months away from now. As the time progresses we would inform the public – they would be given a month’s notice. But as of now the bridge is sound.”

Another official related that the company had been advised that the work needs to be done urgently. He said too that the problem had been observed since the commissioning of the bridge.

Delays

Yesterday commuters spent almost two hours waiting for the bridge to reopen after it was closed at 7 am to facilitate marine traffic. Samaroo pointed out that the delay was caused because the retractor span had to be realigned.

Meanwhile, soon after the December 23, 2008 opening of the bridge a notice was published in the media that the bridge had to be closed from January 1 to January 15 from 1 pm to 2 pm for “testing of the retractor span.” Commuters had complained that the procedure went on until after 3 pm on some days.

This newspaper also observed on a few other occasions that the bridge took longer to reopen than the scheduled one hour. It was later learnt that the bridge was experiencing “electrical problems.”

Recently a signboard was placed on the bridge, highlighting the daily scheduled openings but on Friday morning when this reporter crossed no time had been specified for closure for the day. Nevertheless, the bridge was closed from 2:30 pm to 4 pm “for maintenance.”

Resorting to
ferry service

Despite the high toll charges, persons were elated that the bridge had finally become a reality as it was saving them a lot of time and hassle to cross.

They had described the ferry service as a “nightmare” and were glad to escape from it.

They are now worried that they would have to resort to using the ferry during the closure and are predicting that there would be “total confusion.”

At present only one ferry is plying the New Amsterdam/Rosignol route and commuters are “wondering how the Minister of Transport [Robeson Benn] would be dealing with the traffic.”

Nonetheless, they are aware that the repairs to the bridge would allow it to operate more efficiently.

They are calling on the minister to put better systems in place so that the crossing could be hassle-free.

Benn had also indicated to this newspaper that he is prepared to have systems in place for passengers to get across easily with the ferry when the time comes.

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