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Rising costs and supply chain challenges delay trenching work

Trenching work by Belco is to carry on for much longer than planned owing to rising costs of supplies, materials and equipment (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Bermuda’s drivers were given bad news yesterday — the three-year time span to complete extensive road trenching is to double.

But Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the public works minister, also outlined a string of repairs coming up for sections of road with poor surfacing.

Colonel Burch told MPs that the island-wide dig installing Belco cables and other utilities, which started in 2020, had hit immediate complications with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Now that we are in March of 2023 — it is clear that the original timeline, which was set in 2020 of 36 months, will be exceeded.

“No one needs to ask why the delay? Mr Speaker, simply put, what was declared in March 2020? The Covid-19 pandemic! The timeline essentially will be doubled.”

Concurrent with Belco’s $250 million plan, which marks a significant upgrade to the power company’s underground high-voltage system, has been the installation at the East End of new water sewage and telecommunications lines.

He called the job “a massive logistical undertaking that has covered virtually the entire island”, entailing 17 miles of trenching.

But its progress has also been hampered by the rising costs of supplies, materials and equipment.

Six projects in different parts of the island have been finished on schedule and four others will be wrapped up by the end of this year.

But a section of the dig on Middle Road from Warwick into Southampton is awaiting the delivery of pipe and will restart next month.

Colonel Burch also addressed the uneven road surfaces left in areas where trenching has been finished.

The bumpy roads are as a result of temporary surfacing — with permanent and smooth asphalt to be put in place once the roads have settled after about a year.

Smoother roadways have come into effect around Harrington Sound in Hamilton Parish, and at the entrance to St David’s.

But Colonel Burch warned that Belco still needed to carry out further digs on the island’s roads — which stands to delay the laying of permanent asphalt on “most of the trenched roadways”.

He said the power company needed to dig “pull holes” at 800ft intervals on roads, allowing technicians to connect high voltage cable lines along the new conduits.

The digging of the 8ft by 30ft holes and connecting of cables for the east of the island, all the way to the electrical sub station at the National Sports Centre, is expected to wrap up this September.

The cable work will then get under way for the west to the sub station at Evans Bay in Southampton.

Colonel Burch turned to the increase in funding for road works pledged in the 2023-24 Budget.

The Ministry of Public Works will be bolstered by help from East End Asphalt Company.

He told the House: “A number of areas have been identified such as Middle Road Warwick between the former TN Tatem Middle School and the MarketPlace in Southampton.”

Others include South Road in front of Lindo’s Warwick, Crawl Hill near the Esso Service Station and Collector’s Hill in Smith’s.

“Other areas can be added to the list when reported,” he said.

Temporary paving will be laid down in the problem areas to “improve the driving experience” until a permanent surface can be added.

Rising costs and supply chain challenges “continuously hinder accurate planning”, Colonel Burch added.

He noted a recent Request for Proposal to get a supply of asphalting aggregate – which would have to be imported.

Colonel Burch said: “The immediate pain for the motoring public is well worth it.”

The work will protect utilities for years to come, he said, meaning “the need to dig up the roads in the future should be minimised”.

To read the minister’s statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”

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Published March 25, 2023 at 7:58 am (Updated March 25, 2023 at 7:58 am)

Rising costs and supply chain challenges delay trenching work

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