King Fahad Causeway 'sinking'
Manama, May 4, 2009
The King Fahad Causeway linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia is gradually sinking into the sea, it has been alleged.
Increasing traffic jams and the frequent movement of heavy trucks has reduced its lifespan and left it in urgent need of repair, said Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Customs and Port Committee head Abdulhakim Shammary.
'The causeway, built at a cost of $1.2 billion (BD450 million) and commissioned for use in 1982, was never meant to have such a large number of heavy trucks standing on it all the time,' he told our sister newspaper Gulf Daily News.
'Bridges worldwide are meant as passages for travellers and goods, but they are not designed on reclaimed land like the causeway.'
Shammary claimed the causeway on the Bahrain side had already sunk a 'few centimetres' in the last few years and urgent repairs were needed.
'We have a situation every day where thousands of tonnes of goods carried by trucks are waiting for hours on the bridge and that put pressure on the structure,' he said.
'As a result, if one looks carefully, there are portions of the structure that give the appearance of caving in.
'This is something that the authorities are aware of and they have taken some preventive steps.
'As recent as three weeks ago, repairs were carried out on bridge number four on the lanes going towards Saudi Arabia, as a result of which traffic was diverted on to the other side.'
Shammary has campaigned for better facilities on both sides of the causeway crossing as hundreds of thousands of trucks have been stranded for several days at a time last year, hindering the supply of essential goods into Bahrain.
'This is now known to be affecting not only the movement of goods but also the very existence of this bridge,' he said.
'We have to try and sort this out to prevent a mishap.'
Shammary said more than 550,000 trucks used the causeway every year and the number of vehicles on it was far higher than the capacity of the bridge.
'We expect by 2012 the number of trucks travelling through this border point would be a million a year,' he said.
'The immediate solution to ease the flow of traffic is to reduce custom procedures taking into consideration the GCC common market agreement.'
King Fahad Causeway Authority officials in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia would not comment on the reports but one Bahrain official told the GDN 'some repairs' had been carried out on the Bahrain side.
However, he claimed these were 'routine maintenance' works and had nothing to do with the bridge sinking.
The causeway authority announced in October that it was adding new truck lanes at a cost of BD1.8 million in an attempt to ease congestion.
It is part of a broader expansion that will increase the number of checkpoint lanes for cars from 10 to 18 for those travelling to Bahrain and from 10 to 17 for motorists going the other way.
Within five years, the number of immigration lanes on the causeway is expected to increase to 45 in both directions.
Shammary previously said Bahrain lost nearly BD35 million last year due to jams on the causeway, saying it was part of a combined BD100 million loss that all Gulf countries suffered.
The loss has also been attributed to increased fuel costs for the extra fleets of trucks that had to be used to try and speed up the delivery processes.
This was in addition to the late delivery and pick up of shipments, the negative effects of delay in projects and damage caused to the causeway.
Shammary also accused causeway officials of 'indifference and complacency' and alleged that because of their callous attitude, trucks coming to Bahrain were being forced to wait at least 48 hours before they were allowed in and thos