Blame put on management and practices
Sloppy project management and negligent building practices have led to the poor quality of bridges and other mainland infrastructure, civil engineers said yesterday.
Factors from accidents to weather changes could cause a bridge to fail, a lecturer at Tongji University's civil engineering school in Shanghai said.
The Fenghuang county bridge collapse was probably the result of mistakes made by workers erecting or dismantling steel scaffolding without appropriate guidance, he said. The dismantling was probably done before the concrete had time to set.
The lecturer said he was unsurprised to hear about the accident, particularly as it was in the poor hinterland where there were more substandard projects than in the more developed southeast.
'The level of architectural design on the mainland is almost shoulder to shoulder with the west, but we lag far behind in terms of construction and management,' he said.
He said companies that won bids often outsourced work to small, informal teams that offered to finish the projects for an extremely low price.
'Construction companies can get a high commission, while the small teams use the cheapest materials and operate carelessly and hastily.'
He said project management in the building industry was often lax and even when faults were found in construction, the managers were treated leniently.
Tsinghua University bridge engineering expert Qin Quan said many mainland bridges were old and their designs could not meet today's needs.
Professor Qin pointed to an incident in June, when the Jiujiang bridge in Guangdong collapsed when a sand barge struck it, and he called for revisions to the national quality standards defining the minimum criteria for projects because they had not been amended for a long time.
'But we cannot believe that a bridge reaching the quality standard will never collapse,' he said. 'Even in the US, where there is more investment in research and development and its annual assessments are the strictest, three bridges have collapsed in the past four months.'
A look at the mainland's worst bridge collapses in recent years
1 Jiujiang Bridge, Guangdong
Death toll: 9
2 Tianzhuangtai Bridge, Liaoning
Death toll: Unknown
3 Suxian Bridge, Hunan
Death toll: Unknown
4 Rainbow Bridge, Chongqing
Death toll: 24
Death toll: 29
SOURCE: SCMP ARCHIVES