The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) his issued tenders to six pre-qualified bidders for each of the mega-bridges, over the Mtentu and Msikaba River gorges, that are to be part of the greenfield section of the N2 Wild Coast Road project.
This is in spite of the fact that the project, which has been dogged by controversy since its inception 15 years ago, still faces some unresolved legal issues. There was huge opposition from KwaZulu-Natal road users who expected to fund the project through increased tolling in their province. However, this opposition has fallen away as the KwaZulu-Natal section has been excluded from the project. The revised N2 Wild Coast Road Project runs from East London to the Mtamvuna River Bridge, a distance of approximately 410km.
Bizana residents fear being displaced and the Amadiba Crisis Committee has objected to the project, claiming it is linked to the Xolobeni dune mining proposal, against which they are fighting. Conservation organisations are bitterly opposed to the fact that the greenfields section of the proposed route will pass through the environmentally sensitive Pondoland Centre of Endemism, part of a global floral hot spot.
Sanral spokesman Mbulelo Peterson said that an open pre-qualification process had been followed before the issuing of the tenders. He said that, due to the size and complexity of the two bridges, which are expected to cost around R3,5-billion to construct, the tender periods were 18 weeks and 20 weeks respectively for the Mtentu and Msikaba Bridges. Tenders would close at the end of October for the Mtentu Bridge and early in November for the Msikaba Bridge. Construction of the bridges was likely to start early next year.
THE N2 Wild Coast road project was already well under way as Sanral had started working on it as soon as it had received the go-ahead from the Minister of Environmental Affairs in 2010. Mr Peterson said that, to date, Sanral had done extensive work on upgrading existing roads on the N2 between East London and Mthatha and on the future new N2 alignment along the current R61 route between Mthatha and Port St Johns.
All work already done on the N2 Wild Coast Road had been funded from non-toll funding and only the greenfields section of the route would be funded through a mix of government grant and tollings.
“Sanral, the Department of Transport and National Treasury are in discussion to finalise the funding model for the greenfields section. By law only roads funded through toll funding can be tolled and no cross-subsidisation of tolling is allowed,” he said.
This meant Sanral could not erect new toll booths or adjust tariffs at existing toll plazas within KwaZulu-Natal to fund roads in the Eastern Cape.
“New toll roads must be gazetted and go through an extensive public participation process after gazetting.”
In January this year, government gave the green light for the construction of the greenfields section of the project, between Ndwalane outside Port St Johns and the Mtamvuna River.
Mr Peterson said this part of the project would start with the construction of the massive bridges over the Mtentu and Msikaba Rivers, which border the Mkambati Nature Reserve. Once these were under way, construction of the remaining approximately 110km of road, the seven additional river bridges and four interchanges would