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Thursday, May 24, 2007

What's the Maintenance Schedule for the SMART Tunnel?

So has anyone prepared a maintenance manual for our RM1.8billion SMART Tunnel?
But it is brand new and still under warranty many of you will say and the contractor is supposed to rectify defects for another 12 or 18 months.

Well and good but what happens in the meantime when motorists use the tunnel for free? Are they covered by insurance if a slab of concrete falls and kills some motorists during the free period?

Maybe they have even a sign that reads on the toll ticket."The company is not liable for any events that occur in the tunnel". Perhaps the one-month free period is to allow some motorists to have a few accidents in the tunnel to shake loose some questionable sections?

A few of my readers will think I have gone a little bonkers but allow me to share this article published in The Straits Times on 11th May 2007.

"Falling Concrete in CTE Tunnel. Engineers, MP call for thorough check".

A few details gleaned from the article:

CTE tunnels opened in 1991 and have been troubled with leaks since the opening.
Designed to last 120 years.
Chunks of concrete came crashing down on 9th May in a stretch under the Singapore River. Guessing from the photo the "chunk" looks about the size 20cm X 10cm X 15cm. It could kill you if it fell directly on your head. Luckily the slabs did not hit any vehicle.
The total cost of the CTE including tunnels was $300million.
The leaks had to be repaired 3 times since 1991.
The last leak repair was in 2003 and cost $4million.

The main cause of such leaks is the breakdown of the special waterproof membrane that line the tunnel walls.

A sure sign of the waterproofing failure would be the "sweating" of the tunnel walls and eventually you will find drips and the growth of small plants in crevices of the walls.
If the failure is not arrested in time, spalling will occur and this is referred as "Concrete cancer" that sees the corrosion of reinforment metal bars in the concrete. The rusting metal expands and separates from the concrete and the tunnel walls will become uneven. It is then a question of time, perhaps some years before the chunks start falling off like in the CTE.

One particular concern of the SMART Tunnel is the water channel at the bottom section. If the waterproofing quality is not good enough, it will surely cause the entire tunnel to deteriorate faster unless minor defects are repaired quickly. I suggest the authorities should get an independent party to inspect this tunnel say every five years for structural integrity.

Even Singapore with their "kiasus" mentality can experience tunnel flaws so I expect Malaysia with our "tiadapathy" attitude should be more wary of the SMART Tunnel.
Unless you want to drive a HUMVEE?

I will take a look at this tunnel the next time I'm up in KL but not five years later.

Graphics: Thanks to http://www.smarttunnel.com.my/images/project/smart/pic_crosssection.jpg

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