The Bakwena N1 N4 freeway is an important arterial connecting Gauteng with the Limpopo Province on the N1 and the platinum-rich North West province on the N4, while ensuring the efficient movement of people and goods between South Africa and neighbouring Botswana.
Over the past two years, the Bakwena Platinum Corridor Concessionaire (Bakwena), which operates the highway on behalf of the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL), has been upgrading specific toll plazas along the route to ensure improved flow of the many vehicles using the corridor every day.
The focus has been on widening four mainline plazas (Pumulani, Doornpoort, Brits and Marikana) as well as two ramp plazas (Stormvoëland Zambesi) by adding extra lanes to improve traffic throughput at the various plazas.
Importantly, work undertaken at the Zambesi plaza also forms part of a SANRAL/Bakwena pilot project to drive the uptake of its e-Tags’ by providing users with a faster, more convenient alternative for passing through these pay-points on the N1N4 highway.
Registered ‘e-Tag’ holders can now fast-track their drive time by using an exclusive e-tag lane that exits directly from the highway – obviating queuing at conventional plazas.
“This is a pilot project,” says Phaks Ngqumshe, a director of JG Afrika, “and depending on its success, the concept may be rolled out elsewhere on the corridor and on other national roads.”
Ngqumshe has project managed the plaza upgrade programme since JG Afrika was awarded the design and construction supervision contract in 2015.
“This was a unique project in that the dedicated ‘e-Tag’ lanes, with separate dedicated e-tag lanes off the freeway are a new concept in the country. One of the complexities in the design and drawing stages is that we did not have similar projects that we could reference, so the design teams had to largely innovate from scratch,” says Ngqumshe.
A “meeting of minds” between representatives of JG Afrika, SANRAL and Bakwena resulted in a solution that was not only feasible and practical, but also safe for road users.
This sharp learning curve challenged the experienced professional team, but also provided a sound mentoring platform for some of the young engineers and new engineering graduates on the engineering team.
Working to extremely tight deadlines, implementation started at Zambesi toll plaza, enabling the consulting engineer and civil contractor, G4 Civils, to refine operations and achieve a desired production rate over the duration of the project.
The Stormvoël plaza was next. Located in a built-up urban area, it required extensive rerouting of vehicles and pedestrians. The relocation of many associated services added another level of complexity to the project.
Ngqumshe says most of these challenges were overcome by an extremely proactive approach taken by JG Afrika and G4 Civils, prior to mobilising to site. This was complemented by excellent team dynamics between both parties right from the outset.
Pumulani and Doornpoort toll plazas were next, followed by the Brits and Marikana facilities, with the entire project scheduled for completion in October 2017.
All the new Plazas comprise a 300-mm-thick concrete pavement supported by stabilised layers, while structural work was required to also extend the existing toll plaza canopies.
This is over-and-above the work required to install the new signage and signalling as part of the overall work scope.
The only delays resulted from recent heavy rainfall, reflecting the efficiencies of the professional teams on site. However Ngqumshe is just as pleased by the impressive safety levels maintained throughout the programme, with no major incidences, or loss time injuries reported, to date.
This is a significant achievement considering that the extensions were undertaken in operational areas, where impatient driving behaviour and pedestrian movement alongside the highways were major risks that had to be thoroughly managed.
He says successes in this regard can largely be attributed to the professional team, G4 Civils, as well as Bakwena’s emphasis on safety.
“Health and safety have always been paramount for JG Afrika and G4 Civils, and our client insisted on this – even if it was at the expense of production. Bakwena was well aware of the challenges that we would encounter and were, therefore, extremely willing to accommodate our suggestions to ensure a safer site,” says Ngqumshe.
With a just a few months left before this project is completed, he believes that it will be another milestone in the firm’s long legacy in transport infrastructure, as well as its close affiliation with both SANRAL and Bakwena.
More information from Charmagne Denny, Tel: +27(0)11 231 2200 / www.jgafrika.com
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