The Ministry of Public Works and Transport has set up a checkpoint with a vehicle scale at the eastern entrance to Tsubasa Bridge on Friday, after an overloaded rice truck damaged the bridge’s pavement last week.
The ministry has been scrambling to respond after Prime Minister Hun Sen blasted it for being slow to action in a speech on Thursday. Letting overloaded trucks damage the bridge was just one of the examples cited by the Prime Minister in giving the ministry an “F” grade.
“The scale team has to open their eyes to see what is destroying the road, the bridge and public safety, since they also have to take the responsibility,” Hun Sen posted on his Facebook wall on Friday.
Public Works and Transportation spokesman Pen Boran said that besides the new scale at the eastern end, the ministry also set up a police checkpoint to monitor trucks at the bridge’s western entrance.
A scale already exists on the western side of the bridge, but it is 3 kilometres away from the actual bridge entrance, allowing truckers to evade measurement.
Boran added that the ministry is looking for the driver who damaged the pavement last week. So far, officials have identified the truck owner as one Chhun Bunthai, from Takeo’s Kirivong district. However, Kirivong authorities said that their residence records contain no such name.
Ministry officials also vowed more vigilance in general, saying they intercepted 70 overloaded trucks on the roads of Kampong Thom province and 10 in Stung Treng province over the weekend.
An employee of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, which built the bridge, said on condition of anonymity that overloaded trucks are a regular occurrence on Tsubasa Bridge.
He said that the bridge was not designed for vehicles heavier than 30 to 40 tonnes, while many of the trucks that cross it carry up to 50 or 60 tonnes. “If there is a lot of pavement damage, eventually the main structure will become damaged too,” he said. “It needs to be repaired as soon as possible before it gets worse.”
He added that insufficient enforcement of existing traffic laws contributes to the damage. Sometimes, authorities fine overloaded trucks but let them cross the bridge anyway.
San Chey, executive director of accountability watchdog ANSA-EAP, agreed that bribery and poor law enforcement contribute to heavy infrastructural damage.
In a separate incident, an overloaded 40-tonne cassava truck destroyed a temporary bridge in Kratie’s Chlong district on Friday. The bridge was not designed to support more than 10 tonnes.
The truck belongs to farmers living in Tbong Khmum who agreed yesterday to pay $9,000 for repairs.
Additional reporting by Igor Kossov and Bun Sengkong