Malaysia entangled in a controversy in Perth

perth-bridgePERTH: Malaysia is in the middle of a controversy over the construction of a A$61 million (RM204 million) pedestrian bridge over the Swan River here. And it is no fault of Malaysia at all.

The problem: The main part of the bridge linking Perth to the new sports stadium is being built in Malaysia, and some Australians are unhappy that it is being built overseas rather than at home.

But Malaysians visiting Perth later this year would be proud to know that a made-in-Malaysia bridge stands over the Swan River.

The steel cable-stay bridge was originally slated to be ready early this year but a delay has caused it to be rescheduled for mid-year.

Yesterday, Western Australia’s (WA) premier, Colin Barnett, waded into the controversy by saying his government was unaware the pedestrian bridge would have to be largely built overseas.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoted him as saying his Cabinet was not told the bridge would have to be largely constructed in Malaysia.

The report did not identify the Malaysian firm or firms involved in the project. The report said the main part of the bridge was being built in Malaysia. Another report said it was being built using steel from China.

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The WA government, Barnett said, only knew the bridge would be built abroad after it had approved the design.

“The Cabinet was not advised the work would go overseas. I think if we were aware of that we would not have chosen this design,” he was quoted by ABC as saying.

However, Barnett added: “I was a little concerned about this one, it was quite an exotic design but I’m sure it will be spectacular and will become one of the iconic Perth sites.”

ABC said the project had been strongly criticised for sending the work overseas, with both Labor and local contractors disputing Barnett’s assertion it could not have been built in Western Australia.

ABC said concerns had also been raised about the quality of the work.

However, Main Roads Western Australia, the agency which manages roads and bridges, questioned allegations about the structural integrity of the bridge being built.

It said on its website: “Quality control for the fabrication of the bridge is assured with professionals from the Welding Technology Institute of Australia on site in Malaysia to oversee the work.

“In addition the contractor also has its own experts monitoring quality of the work. These controls will ensure the bridge meets Australian engineering standards – Main Roads will not accept a sub-standard product.”

The pedestrian bridge between East Perth and the 60,000-seat stadium in Burswood is being built to allow an estimated 14,000 people access to and from the venue on event days.

The Perth Stadium website described the design of the 370m long pedestrian bridge as “visually stunning”.

It will have a steel cable-stay span of 160m at its centre. This central structural arch and expressive apex rises 65 metres above the river to provide a focal point from distant vantage points, the city and Perth Stadium.

“The design achieves a sensitive footprint, treading lightly upon the river and both foreshores with only two piers situated in the water, thereby respecting the heritage of the area and minimising the impact on the riverbed,” it said.