Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol has warned that a South Korean company that was awarded the contracts to construct stretches of National Roads 2 and 22 may be blacklisted from operating in the Kingdom after the ministry determined it had worked too slowly and built poor-quality roads.

Chanthol gave the warning while leading a technical team of specialists to inspect progress on the construction of both national roads on April 23.

He said that after inspecting and testing the roads, the ministry found that the construction failed to comply with technical standards and he demanded immediate fixes.

“We went to test the foundations [of the road] and in some places they were durable but most of them fall below the standards set by the ministry. So I ordered my team to start demolishing the faulty portions from beginning to end.

“There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of examples to present to the technical inspection company and the construction firm where we couldn’t accept the quality of the roads the builders handed over to us,” he emphasised.

He noted that the Hanshin Engineering & Construction Co Ltd – which was awarded the contract to build the two national roads – also had the same sort of problems with its construction of a stretch of National Road 21, and therefore the ministry was considering blacklisting the company.

“Before discussing other projects we should decide whether to allow Hanshin to join the bidding process or not. We must decide whether we want any more headaches from this company blowing smoke at us,” Chanthol said. “We will discuss the issue further with the Korean side.

“Since there are so many problems with the construction on national roads 21, 22 and 2, we must decide whether this company should be allowed to bid again or if we make an agreement with Korea that from today we’re banning Hanshin from bidding for five years and blacklisting it.”

He added that in order to restore the stretches, the ministry’s technical team must demolish the road’s foundations and present a plan with procedures on how to solve these problems.

“Some places will need to be dug out again. We’ll have to dig them out in order to meet the technical specifications and to set an example for other companies that warns them that they must build high-quality roads according to the standards as agreed upon and not just make a perfunctory effort,” he said.

He noted that the construction of the roads cost more than $50 million and was financed by a loan from Korea. The AC concrete roads are intended to last 10-15 years.

Chanthol added that under the terms of the contract the works was to be completed in April 2022, but the company requested a four-month extension until August of this year.

“The excuse made by the construction company was that it was because of Covid. But I say don’t blame Covid for slow-construction of the roads. We have to look at the roots of the problem and we are aware that the company doesn’t have the standard machinery listed at market prices either,” he said.

However, he said he agreed to the delay and is waiting to see if the company complies with the technical standards or repeats its poor efforts again, which would be unacceptable to the ministry if it happens again in August.

He said that preferably the company will sit down and talk with the ministry’s technical team and with the third-party technical inspection firm so they correct everything – not just in one or a few places, but everywhere, and until then construction will be suspended if need be.

He also asked for patience from the public who used the roads and have already been inconvenienced by the construction for some time now.

Asia Injury Prevention Foundation country director Kim Panga said the ministry’s inspection of the quality of the roads was key to ensuring that the roads the ministry had sought assistance or loans to construct were of high-quality, long-lasting and safe.

“And we know that building each road takes many years and if the project is delayed it causes difficulties for the people,” he said. “Right now it seems like the public works ministry is paying attention to the quality of roads being built while also speeding up construction times ... but the inspections should result in improved road conditions.”