Grayston Update

Murray & Roberts Collapse and Claims Update

Grayston Drive Bridge Collapse.

Murray & Roberts (M&R) estimates that it will make a loss on the R130 million project to build a pedestrian bridge over the M1 highway in Sandton near the Grayston Drive off-ramp. This loss results from the collapse of scaffolding in October 2015 that resulted in two fatalities and 19 injuries.

Henry Laas, the chief executive of M&R said that this project would eventually be closed out at a loss because of issues such as the time lost on the project. But Laas said the group had not made a loss provision for this project because of all the uncertainty around it. “It’s hard to establish at this stage what the loss at completion will be. However, the financial impact will not be material. We have got substantial insurance cover in place that will respond to this incident.” he said.

The Department of Labour has launched a public inquiry into the incident. The inquiry, chaired by Lennie Samuels, was receiving submissions from main contractor M&R, Form-Scaff, which was subcontracted by M&R to build the structure, and the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), responsible for the project on behalf of City of Johannesburg. JDA senior development manager Siyabonga Genu said the JDA had contracted M&R to oversee construction of the 290-metre long bridge. Samuels said the first duty for the commission was to establish what caused the collapse and to set out measures to prevent such an incident from happening again.

Questions about missing bolts and who was directly responsible for the collapsed pedestrian bridge emerged at the inquiry as contractors pointed fingers at each other. Consultations and progress meetings took place between main contractor M&R and JDA to ensure health and safety compliance during and after the construction. At one of the meetings at M&R offices in October 2015, a few days before the bridge collapsed, one of the engineers indicated there were “missing bolts” at the bridge. “At the meeting, which included representatives of Form-Scaff, the issue of the missing set of bolts was discussed. However, those present at the meeting were assured that the missing bolts would not affect the structural integrity of the temporary bridge,” said Genu.

Willem Le Roux, a mine and occupational health expert at the inquiry, on behalf of JDA, told Samuels it was important to find out what caused the collapse and how many bolts were missing from the bridge. “It is crucial that we establish these facts, otherwise we will not conclude this inquiry,” he said.

In his submission, legal representative for Form-Scaff, Ewan Rudolph, denied that his client was responsible for the design and erection of the bridge. The company supplied materials to be used in the construction. “Form-Scaff never developed the original methodologies, designs or erected the structure. Form-Scaff stressed at one of the meetings with M&R that it was important that M&R appoint a professional engineer to oversee the design, inspection and approval of the temporary works in compliance with regulations.”

According to Rudolph, Form-Scaff suggested the employment of independent engineer, a Mr Benackie, to which M&R indicated it was not necessary and said Mr Roger Backer of M&R, who is also an engineer was appointed to oversee responsibility for the design, inspection and approval of the structure.

M&R designed the bridge, and thereafter Form-Scaff assembled the structure as per M&R design at its premises in Johannesburg. The assembled structure was then transported to the site where M&R took over and built the bridge, explained Rudolph.

The inquiry was yet to call witnesses, and only submissions were put on record. The inquiry is set to get underway on 19 April at a venue still to be confirmed. Witnesses, the injured and families of those who were killed would be called to present their statements and answer questions.

Tribunals hear more claims

Henry Laas also provided an update on the major claims related to the Gautrain rapid rail project and Dubai International Airport that M&R has been working on for many years. He said they had eventually got to the point where key dates had been agreed with the tribunals and respondents to M&R’s claims and how these claims would be closed out. Laas was hopeful that by the end of 2017 there would be a lot more certainty on these claims.

M&R has two outstanding claims against the Gauteng provincial government related to the Gautrain project and the provincial government has one claim against M&R because of a water ingress problem between the Park and Rosebank stations. Laas said the biggest claim was the delay and disruption claim, which relates to the handover by the provincial government of land parcels for the project more than two (years) later than called for in the project programme, while a second component relates to two cantilever bridges over the highway in Centurion.

The Sandton Station claim relates to a different and more expensive methodology than the tender that was adopted for the construction of the station.  Laas said the quantum hearing for the Sandton Station claim ruled in favour of M&R and the company was hopeful of a favourable award shortly.

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