New transport projects are set to boost connectivity

Taking advantage of the rewards reaped from a sustained period of high oil prices, Brunei Darussalam has embarked on several large-scale infrastructure projects that are designed to serve as the foundation of a stronger, more diverse economy. Many of the largest investments are in the ground transport system, which will play a crucial role in the industrial and tourism sectors by improving efficiency in the movement of goods and people. Seeking to overcome some of the country’s most significant natural logistics obstacles, the Ministry of Development (MoD) recently rolled out three new bridge projects that will transform the Sultanate’s road network. Unlike most major public infrastructure projects in the region, which are carried out under public-private partnerships and build-operate-transfer models, Brunei Darussalam’s deep pockets allow it to finance and operate the projects on its own.

Uniting The Country

By far the largest and most technically challenging of the three new bridges is the Temburong Bridge, scheduled to begin construction end-2014. The impact of the infrastructure mega-project will help transform the way Bruneians travel between the two non-contiguous districts of Maura and Temburong by providing the first direct road link between them. Currently, the only way to travel between the two destinations is a one- to two-hour boat ride, or by road via multiple border crossings through the Malaysian province of Sarawak, averaging around 90 minutes and taking up to four hours during peak traffic. The new link will reduce the commute between the two districts to just 30-40 minutes. The bridge is also expected foster better economic ties with Sabah, thanks to the improved connectivity between the two, and is an important link in the proposed Pan-Borneo Highway.

Chin Kok Kong, managing partner of Arup Group, told OBG, “The upcoming Temburong Bridge will have many positive economic spin-offs, including cross-border opportunities with Sabah, the facilitation of exports, the promotion of ecotourism and the encouragement of movement on the Pan-Borneo Highway project.”

Bridging Spans

After years of speculation, the government began to move forward in 2010 when it appointed global consulting firm Ove Arup & Partners, known for its structural design of the Sydney Opera House, to carry out an 18-month feasibility study of the bridge. The study led to plans for a new dual three-lane carriageway that included 14.5 km of cable-stayed bridges and 11.8 km of a combination of dual-lane at-grade roads and tunnels for a total length of roughly 30 km. The 30-km link will start from the western end at an interchange at Jalan Penghubung Mentiri and pass through a series of tunnels within Bukit Subok before crossing Brunei Bay. From the first navigation span, the Brunei Channel Bridge, the link will skirt between Pulau Pepatan and Baru-Baru islands, coming to the second navigation span, the Eastern Channel Bridge, and then continuing eastwards to landfall at the Temburong side and the final connection to Jalan Labu. Arup Group joined the project when it was selected as the civil and structural consultant in 2013. In addition to the new Arup contract, several local firms were signed on in 2013, including MWH Global, hired to carry out an environmental impact assessment; Teca (B) to conduct soil analysis; and four surveyors – Taib Said, Bersatu Consultants, Perunding Services and CMK Consultants – to survey the geophysical marine and land characteristics of Temburong and Brunei-Muara.

Slicing Up The Pie

The MoD’s Public Works Department (PWD) has divided the bridge construction into six separate projects with staggered start dates to ensure all phases are completed by the target deadline of 2018. Prequalification tenders for the primary marine viaducts section traversing Brunei Bay with an estimated 45-month build window were issued in June 2013. The tendering phase is expected to be completed by end-2014, at which time construction will commence. Works for this initial phase is comprised of five separate components. The centrepiece of this package is construction of a 13.4-km marine viaduct across the Brunei Bay, which is split into two lengths: an 8.1-km viaduct between the eastern end of the Brunei Channel Navigation Bridge and western end of the Eastern Channel Navigation Bridge, and another 5.3-km viaduct between the eastern end of the Eastern Channel Navigation Bridge and the western end of the Temburong Road North at Tanjung Kerasek in Temburong. Other ancillary works include a 800-metre, grade-separated turnaround facility at the island of Pulau Baru-Baru, including provisions for future connections to Pulau Baru-Baru, Pulau Pepatan and Pulau Berambang, and associated support works like traffic control systems.

Down The Road

The second and third packages are to complete the tendering process by end-2014. The first of these is for the two navigation bridges spanning Brunei and Eastern Channels, as well as for the viaducts between the tunnel portal and the Brunei Channel navigation bridge. The 1.1 km of roadway will be accompanied by support projects, like an administration building and connecting ramps to Jalan Kota Batu. The Temburong Road package involves building a 11. 8-km embankment road and minor bridges over rivers, as well as land viaducts, a turnaround facility and a reconfiguration of Jalan Labu at the east end of the road.

Slated for tendering by mid-2015, the Mentiri Tunnels will be another technically challenging aspect of the bridge. As the western end of the bridge span makes landfall in the middle of the steep Mentiri ridge, a construction crew must bore two short tunnels along a 3.6-km section through to the Mentiri Interchange on the western side of the ridge. This interchange is the fifth contract package slated to begin construction at the end of 2015. The 25-month project involves building a grade-separated connection to Jalan Utama Mentiri and the Mentiri tunnel. The final component of the bridge, scheduled to be awarded in mid-2016, consists of installing route-wide traffic control and surveillance systems across the length of the roadway and is expected to take 20 months to complete.

PMB

The second major bridge being built is to support industrial growth at the Pulau Muara Besar (PMB) industrial park as the government continues in its efforts to diversify the economy. With work already under way to build a new a $4bn integrated refinery and aromatics complex on PMB island, a road link is vital for manufacturing operations expected to begin by 2016. The government issued a tender for the project in January 2014 for a package including construction of a 2.7-km bridge linking PMB island to the mainland and a 3-km road on PMB island, an approach road along Jalan Perusahaan as well as support infrastructure, including utilities comprising power lines, telecommunication lines and untreated water supply from tap points on the mainland through the bridge to PMB, according to the tender document. Although the tender window closed in April 2014, no winner for the project had been announced as of August 2014.

Sungai Brunei

Last but not least, construction began in 2013 on the country’s third major bridge, which will connect Kampung Sungai Kebun in Lumapas to Jalan Residency in Bandar. The 607-metre, cable-stayed bridge is being built by a partnership of Swee and South Korea’s Daelim Industrial on a BN$138.9m ($109m) contract issued by the MoD in June 2013. The new bridge will consist of a two-lane carriageway and pedestrian walkways and is expected to significantly reduce travel time for residents in Bandar, who currently have to travel around 30 km via Jalan Bengkurong-Masin and Jalan Tutong to reach the capital. Scheduled for completion by mid-2016, work on the bridge was roughly 20% completed as of July 2014, with construction being done on the substructure and support pylons of the bridge.

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