The dismantling of Thuchila Bridge at Nkando Trading Centre in Mulanje which has led to the closure of the Robert Mugabe Highway between Blantyre and Mulanje has affected both motorists and pedestrians.
The Roads Authority (RA) announced on Tuesday that it has closed the road to dismantle the bridge due to a dent that developed on one side which posed a threat to motorists and pedestrians.
When Nation Online crew visited the bridge around 11 o’clock in the morning, pedestrians were seen using part of the bridge with one side closed that was being dismantled.
Pedestrians who disembarked from minibuses that were coming from Blantyre were seen crossing the bridge to board minibuses to Mulanje on the other side.
Some motorists travelling to Mulanje who did not know of the bridge’s closure were either turning back to use the Limbe-Thyolo-Mulanje-Muloza Road which the RA urged motorists to use or were taking another route soon after the market that goes to Chonde.
Despite being business as usual at the trading centre, most pedestrians and motorists said the development will make travel hard for them.
A pedestrian who identified himself as Kondwani Kasito said the RA ought to have renovated the bridge before such an occurrence.
He said: “The bridge is very old. The responsible authorities should have ensured that it is renovated before waiting for it to collapse.”
A motorist Ken Banda, who only knew of the road closure when he arrived at the spot yesterday, said: “This bridge should have been fixed a long time ago.”
But in an e-mail response, RA spokesperson Portia Kajanga, who acknowledged that the bridge has outlived its life span, said Katakwe Civil Engineering in collaboration with RA engineers and regional controller of works from the Ministry of Transport and Public Works are working on it and they are expected to launch a single lane Bailey bridge as a temporary measure while RA engineers work on new designs of a much wider concrete structure.
She said: “We are yet to establish when the bridge was built. The Roads Authority, which is responsible for maintenance of the Robert Mugabe Highway, has also been providing maintenance interventions to the bridge.
“We have not yet worked out the cost because some of the Bailey parts that we are going to use are already available, while we will have to search for the remaining parts. The Bailey bridge to be launched will be for the middle deck which is 18m long. But we are optimistic that the budget will be minimal. This is typical of emergency works. “