Authority probes alleged faulty rail bridges

Updated: 2011-10-22 10:22

By Yan Jie (China Daily)

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BEIJING - The Ministry of Railways said on Friday that it is investigating media claims that an unfinished railway bridge in Northeastern China had serious safety flaws because of illegal contracting.

A railway bridge project in Baishan, Jilin province, was subcontracted in July 2010 to Lu Tianbo, a migrant construction worker who led dozens of migrant workers who were unqualified for building bridges, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Thursday.

The report also found that gravel was used to replace concrete in the construction of bridge pier foundations for other railway bridges, posing serious safety threats in bridges that were part of a multibillion yuan railway project.

The Ministry of Railways neither confirmed nor denied the allegations in a statement released on Friday.

After working as a cook, owning a restaurant and building roads, Lu took over the construction of a large bridge from the Jiangxi Changsha Construction Project Group Co, based in East China's Jiangxi province in July 2010, he said.

Lu admitted that he and dozens of migrant workers he had directed had no experience then in building bridges.

The bridge project is part of a 2.3 billion yuan ($360 million) railway construction program begun in 2010 in Northeast China's Jilin province.

The rail's owner, Shenyang Railways Bureau, in neighboring Liaoning province, awarded the contract to complete the overall project to Liaoning-based China Railway No 9 Group Co Ltd in 2009, according to the contract announcement.

After winning the contract, that company subcontracted the whole project to several construction companies, including Jiangxi Changsha Construction Project Group.

The other bridge and a tunnel had also been assigned to construction crews made up of unqualified migrant workers, Lu said.

Jiangxi Changsha Construction Project Group was also unqualified for the tunnel construction.

Chinese regulations prohibit companies from giving construction contracts to third parties or sub-contracting them to unqualified builders.

A Xinhua investigation found that workers had been building the pier foundations of one bridge, the No 3 bridge, by filling them with gravel instead of concrete, thus making it unsafe.

A worker called Dawei told Xinhua that he tossed rocks and gravel into one of the pier foundations in June.

Experts say that using gravel instead of concrete to fill pier foundations will cause them to tilt or even break in the future.

Nie Xifeng, a project manager of the Liaoning company, admitted that the company had subcontracted the railway project to several construction companies, including the Jinangxi company.

Nie also acknowledged that the Liaoning company had been aware of the illegal practices used in building the pier foundations. The Jiangxi company was fined 10,000 yuan by the Liaoning company in July 2010.

The Liaoning company will take samples of the pier foundations and have them examined, said Zhao Tiejun, a deputy head of the company.