KUCHING: The Satok Suspension Bridge will be operational in due time. Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing gave this assurance and refuted rumours that the bridge was suspended indefinitely.
“I can assure you that the bridge will be open, we have appointed a group of third party to look into what might have happened,” Masing, who is also Infrastructure and Ports Development Minister, told New Sarawak Tribune in an interview yesterday.
The bridge project became controversial early last month when pictures of the tilting anchor block went viral in social media.
It tilted after a simulating load test representing the weight of 800 people was carried out.
Masing said it was one blunder that was not acceptable.
“Who is at fault? Is it a design fault or a fault by the contractors?” he had asked.
He was reported to have questioned the project engineers who, in his view should have anticipated all the possible faults when the bridge was designed.
He went on to order the bridge closed to the public, thus postponing its scheduled opening on Malaysia Day last month.
“After we study it carefully, we will do remedial action to allow for the bridge to be in operation,” Masing added.
According to Masing, outside experts are being hired to assess the bridge and that the state Public Works Department (JKR) will not be involved.
He dismissed rumours that the project is now binned supposedly due to irreparable structural defects.
“That’s not correct, don’t simply believe coffee shop talks,” he said.
On whether there is a time frame for the study to be completed, Masing said, “I don’t know, I’m not an engineer, we will study it as long as it takes.
“We want to make sure the bridge is safe (for users).”
A Public Works Department (JKR) structural engineer also said the bridge will “definitely be completed”.
He, too, said the project is not binned and that ratification works are ongoing.
However, he refused to provide a date for its completion when asked by New Sarawak Tribune on Tuesday.
“Sorry to say, but if you are not the one designing the plan and doing the modelling, who are you to say that the structural damage is irreparable?” he asked.
He pointed out that anyone can talk about the project, but the project engineers are the ones who actually know the nitty-gritty of the project.
The suspension bridge, which is 213 metres long and three metres wide, was built at a cost of RM8 million to replace the old Satok bridge which collapsed in October 2004.
Construction started in Sept 2017.
The old bridge was opened in 1926 to light vehicles and pedestrians. It also carried water pipes.
It was closed to pedestrians in 1992 until it collapsed twelve years later.