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Wouldn’t it be nice if Roads ACT were responsible?

By johnboy - 29 August 2010 18

Collapsed bridge

The Canberra Times informs us that, failure being an orphan, Reynders Constructions are shouting loud and long that they built the collapsed bridge formwork over the GDE exactly the way it was on the plans.

As the spider’s web of contractors and consultants point fingers the culpability of Roads ACT becomes clearer.

— Roads ACT presided over a system without accountability to spend millions of our dollars and which tens of thousands of Canberrans were to trust their lives to.

— Roads ACT approved plans which were unsafe.

— Roads ACT hired inspectors unable to make accurate assessments of the safety of the works.

Yes the failure was in formwork, not the finished product assuming the formwork had held up.

But having systemically failed to spot the problems in the formwork can we have any faith in their other work? Before it falls down?

Two people are responsible for Roads ACT. The very long serving Director, Tony Gill, and the Minister for Transport. Jon Stanhope.

They’ll tell us there’s no problem. But they’d have said that on 13 August too.

GDE Bridge Collapse

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18 Responses to
Wouldn’t it be nice if Roads ACT were responsible?
PM 11:13 am 30 Aug 10

Tony Gill doesn’t listen to anyone.

Gungahlin Al 10:47 am 30 Aug 10

CT’s print article talked about the potential additional costs to Roads ACT. It neglected to consider the additional imposts on Gungahlin residents who now face maybe another 6 months of congested commute.

verbalkint 10:40 am 30 Aug 10

The government (and Roads ACT) don’t employ people (though I understand they will now do so) who are able to read and give education opinions on detailed plans for bridge construction.

What they do (and this shouldn’t surprise anyone) is hire people who say that they can do those things. We don’t really need a bridge engineer on the government payroll so that they can check the plans developed by a contractor every few years when we build a new bridge.

There is accountability in this system and it is with the private sector, not the government. Most people understand this to be true, because they believe that there are some things that the private sector does better than the pubilc sector.

Furthermore, because of the arms length relationship with the builders of this bridge, the ACT taxpayers won’t be out of pocket due to this mistake. Had the government been builing it, we would have to pay for the second bridge to be built (though arguably, it wouldn’t have fallen down in the first place).

Grail 10:23 am 30 Aug 10

There are too many cooks in the kitchen. Everyone thinks someone else is going to get the soufflé out of the oven before it sinks, but they’re all too busy keeping their meat separate from their vegetables and sterilising cooking utensils after every dish.

Imagine the outcry there would have been if the unions had insisted on a stop-work, and it turned out later that the formwork was all up to scratch? We wouldn’t have a road closed for two weeks due to demolition works, we wouldn’t have someone in hospital with suspected spinal injuries, we’d just have a union with egg on its face and people looking for more ways to defang the buggers.

When it gets to the point that the workers fear disciplinary action from their employer more than being drowned in concrete, it’s time to wonder if we’ve taken too much power away from the unions.

caf 11:09 pm 29 Aug 10

The days of the Department of Main Roads employing everyone involved right down to the guys mixing the concrete are over.

Government is now just the client on these engagements – setting the high level requirements and paying the bills. They should certainly be making sure that the contractors they’re paying, and any sub-contractors, are appropriately experienced and qualified – but at the end of the day, if you have the necessary skills to ensure that no-one involved is cheating you, then you have the skills to just do the work yourself.

moderatevoice 8:22 pm 29 Aug 10

This article shows what little understanding some people have of the arrangements within TAMS for the construction of capital works. Some relevant points based upon information from Roads ACT’s consultants report prepared by SMEC:

• Roads ACT is the client ( not ACT Procurement Solutions)
• ACT Procurement Solutions is the ACT government’s deliverer of capital works and principal’s representative
• ACT Procurement Solutions procures the services of agents (consultants) to design and superintend the works and contractors to construct the works
• Consultants and contractors must be pre-qualified to ACT Procurement Solution’s requirements to be considered for engagement for a project of this value (check out their website at http://www.procurement.act.gov.au/)
• Aecom Australia, the design agent, is prequalified to ACT Procurement Solution’s requirements
• GHD, the superintendent, is pre-qualified prequalified to ACT Procurement Solution’s requirements
• Abergeldie Contractors, the head contractor, is pre-qualified prequalified to ACT Procurement Solution’s requirements
• Sellick Consultants, the design agent for the formwork, is not listed as being pre-qualified prequalified to ACT Procurement Solution’s requirements
• Reynders Constructions, the formwork contractor, is not listed as being pre-qualified prequalified to ACT Procurement Solution’s requirements
• Abergeldie, the head contractor, is responsible for all its subcontractors

What the collapse clearly demonstrates is that there has been a systemic breakdown. If one looks closely at the report there are more safety breaches than just the formwork that have the potential to kill or injure workers AND the public. Everyone in the delivery chain has a case to answer, including the workers who erected the faulty scaffolding. These are also in evidence at other construction sites around the ACT.

The CFMEU protests that it has raised safety issues with the government. However, the workers that it purports to cover also have a duty of care to themselves, fellow workers and the public and if they were aware of the seriousness of the defects then they should have done something about it and not have proceeded with concrete pour. Indeed if they are as diligent as they claim then the formwork should have been rectified.

Russ 8:21 pm 29 Aug 10

From looking through the various docs, the fault appears to lie with the engineer who designed the falsework and didn’t spec any bracing for the beams. If I understand correctly (and I may well not), that was a local firm. It doesn’t seem unreasonable nor irresponsible for the Govt./contractors/inspectors/certifiers to defer to the engineering expertise provided.

That said, if the beam bracing had required welding, from the look of the piss-poor attempt at “full penetration” welding performed on the top flanges of the beams, it may still have given way…

ConanOfCooma 7:19 pm 29 Aug 10

Blame aside, I find it quite amusing that both RA posters and an engineer in law were able to determine the issue by viewing images available to the public…

Must have been quite a severe stuff-up.

Felix the Cat 3:36 pm 29 Aug 10

This will turn out like the hospital implosion, no Govt official will be to blame, a contractor will cop the blame instead.

Spectra 2:26 pm 29 Aug 10

Just because everyone immediately denies responsibility doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t, or won’t become abundantly clear who screwed up. Insurers tell you never to immediately accept responsibility for a car crash, even when it’s clearly your fault. I’d imagine that goes double for catastrophic engineering failures.

Of course, if it doesn’t become pretty clear, then we have a serious problem.

trevar 12:46 pm 29 Aug 10

Roads ACT can’t be held responsible. That would risk taxpayers’ money! Roads ACT are, by virtue of being a government agency, irresponsible not responsible.

johnboy 12:25 pm 29 Aug 10

Indeed, brain spasm.

cranky 12:10 pm 29 Aug 10

I think thats Tony Gill.

johnboy 12:03 pm 29 Aug 10

My point is that allowing the system to grow to where there are no clear lines of responsibility is itself a terrifying failure.

nhand42 11:40 am 29 Aug 10

Not enough information to make an informed decision. Was the formwork part of the engineering plans? Who is actually responsible for the formwork; the engineers, the contractors, the inspectors, the officials? Are inspectors responsible for confirming the formwork is sufficient for the engineering task required, or merely for confirming the formwork is erected according to code? Were other factors at play here such as weakened formwork? Was the possibility of a formwork collapse included in the initial Threat Risk Analysis? If so were any mitigations in the TRA not followed? Who was responsible for implementing those mitigations?

Too many questions. Not enough answers. Too early to assign blame. If my experience is anything to go by, there will have been more than one fault, with several parties at least partially responsible for the overall catastrophe.

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