REPORT OF THE RAKAIA BRIDGE COMMISSION.
The following report of the Rakaia Bridge Commission was laid on the table of the Council last night. The appendix consists of plans, correspondence, documents, and reports; the evidence extending to 515 pages. Chrifitchurch, April 30th, 1875. To hie Excellency the Moat Noble Marquis of Normanby, Governor of New Zealand, &c, &c, &c. We, the Commissioners appointed the second day of February, 1875, undei your Excellency's hand and the seal of this colony, to inquire into certain matters connected with the Rakaia bridge, as set forth in the Commission, beg to report that: — The first contract for the construction of the Rakaia bridge received the approval of the late Mr T. Patterson, consulting engineer, and Mr G. Thornton, Provincial Engineer, and was subsequently made on the 7th October, 1869, between the Superintendent of the province of Canterbury, and Mr William White, contractor. The second contract for the conversion of the bridge (during the progress of the first contract), to a combined road and railway bridge was entered into by the Superintendent of Canterbury with Mr William White, on the 29th August, 1871. The plans were approved by the acting engineer-in-chief, Mr Blackett, and the Provincial Engineer, Mr Thornton, on behalf of their respective Governments. Under the second contract, the first was to remain in force, and.a clause was inserted providing for the General Government taking over the contract, which, however, wa» never acted upon. This contract in its main features provides for additional piles, railway girders, transverse joists 9 x 4 oq edge, and longitudinal planking. Mr W. B. Bray is named as the General Government Engineer, and Mr George Thornton (to whom the supervision of the works was instrusted), as Provincial Engineer. The powere of the General Government Engineer were not defined, but as it was contemplated that the General Government would repay the cost of the bridge to the Provincial Government, the engineer of the former would have some control, he could assent to or dissent from any alterations. Mr Locke (since deceased) was appointed by the Superintendent of Canterbury clerk of works under the contract. Mr Bray retired from the service of the General Government in May, 1572, and was succeeded by Mr T. S. Tancred. In September, 1872, Mr Tancred suggested alterations in the design, viz:—To lay ISft 10 x 5 joists on their fl it instead of 9 x 4 on edge, and to floor the bridge between the rails with limber four
inches thick to receive agphalte, as a protection to the structure against fire. Plan No 4. which embodies this idea, dot's not materially alter the original Flan No. 2 for the combined bridge, but was never carried out. It was prepared in Mr Thornton's office, by Mr D. G. Ward, under instructions from Mr Tancred. This plan was signed by Mr Tancred and Mr Thornton, and forwarded to the Eugiueer-in-Ohief, Mr J. Carruthers, for his approval, which was signified in due course on the 29th October, 1872, to Mr Tancred by telegram, and on the 31st October, the latter offers Mr White, and he accepts, a contract to lay the permanent way. No further instructions appear to have been forwarded by the Engineer-in-Chief in this matter, and no intimation in any form was given of the confirmation of the plan to the Provincial Engineerorthecontractor, although both were aware that such a plan as No 4 was contemplated. Mr Tancred left office on Nov sth, 1872, without explaining to his successor, Mr C. Y. O'Connor, the position of the works on the bridge, or that No 4 plan had been approved. The latter never saw the plan. Mr Locke, cl«rk of works, was invalided about this date, 4th November, 1872, and none other was appointed for four months, during which period the whole of the superstructure was completed on a mode entirely at variance with the contract designs, Mr Thornton having been content to accept Mr White's word as to the mode in which the bridge was to be constructed. Plan No 3, drawn after completion of bridge by Mr J. Q. Warner, shows it as built, and has not received the sanction of any of the engineers, excepting as far as asphalting is concerned. It differs radically from either No 2 or No 4 plans by the omission of the joists 9x4 or 10 x 5, and placing all the planking transversely, J and by the asphalting of the whole of the bridge. Mr White says Mr Tancred authorised this plan, but Mr Tancred denies it, and there is no other evidence. He authorised the use of Oregon sleepers, but left office before the decking was commenced. The intention seems to have been to use short joists, and still carry out No 4 plan. I.—The contracts which have been entered into are as follows:—1. No 1, between Superintendent of Canterbury and W. White, dated 7th October, 1869; 2. Between Superintendent of Canterbury and W. White, sanctioned by the General Government, and dated 29th August, 1871; 3. For tarring joints, between the General Government and W. White, in February, 187S; 4. For asphalting the whole bridge, between the General Government and W. White, in February; 5. For painting hand-railing, between the Provincial Government and Button; 6. For approaches and fencing, between the Provincial Government and Holden and others. 11. The mode in which the contracts have been performed isas follows: —1 and 2—Plan No 2, which was the only authorised deviation from No I, has never been carried out. Instead of the bridge being built with transverse joists, 9 x 4 in size, and longitudinal planking Bx3, of totara, black pine, or sugar-loaf pine, the transverse joists are all omitted between the rails, and transverse planking, consisting mostly of 4in thick black pine of various widths, has been laid. Outside the rails the planking consists of Bft x 3ft, chiefly white pine, in a very perished condition. The whole of the planking is laid directly on the road and railway girders. The Bx3 planks are not properly secured with spikes at the butts. The supervision of the construction of the bridge was of the most careless description, and as far as can be learned from the evidence, the cross joists, equal to 103,488 ft timber, have been left out by the contractor without any authority whatever. The reason why it suited his purpose to do so will presently appear. The planking for the deck of the bridge was eeen by Mr Tancred before it was put in position, and acquiesced in by him, although he considered it " not good at all." His reason for not objecting to it is because he understood from Mr White that he had used it in a temporary bridge with the consent of the Provincial Government. There is, however, no evidenoe of this consent, and Mr Tancred quite forgot the clause in the General Conditions of Contract, regarding materials. Some of this plankiner had been cut for four years, and had been mostly in use as scaffolding, it is improbable therefore that it can have been in a fit condition to lay down as permanent planking. Mr Thornton reports to the Secretary for Public Works on 10th March, 1873, he found the planking generally good, but we are compelled to state that the weight of evidence is directly the opposite. The bad condition of the planking in course of being laid down was at the time the common talk of the whole country side. In specification to contract No 2, clause " Joists and Flooring," it is ordered that " the flooring shall consist of planks Bin by 3in, spaced as on drawing £in apart. The planks to break joint so that three planks shall pass through with five feet shift of butts, as more particularly shown on drawing, &c. No planking shall be less than lOfc in length." Mr White in his evidence considers that, when new, white pine planking would last for five years in the flooring of a bridge. As a quantity of the planking was four yearg old, from his own showing, some of it must have been nearly done for; and it,.is a fair inference that he could more easily get a lot of short lengths, which would pass muster at the inspections, than lengths the least of which was to be 10ft. Now, the greatest length required for transverse planking between the outside of rails and outside of bridge is 6ft 4£in, and from ends of sleepers to outside of bridge only 4ft sin ; he was, therefore, able to cut out decayed or twisted portions in his longer lengths of Bft by 3ft, and thus to save a great deal of total waste of planks, which, in the longitudinal planking, would have been unavoidable. The hand-railing has not been returned round the shelter platforms, although proper shelter platforms were to be provided as directed. The lower walings and braces have been omitted on 55 bays. There is a foot cote on plan No 2 which provides for their omission under certain circumstances, but they were to be furnished if afterwards found necessary. 3. It was not imperative to shift the timbers in order to tar the joints. It appears from Mr O'Connor's evidence that Mr White, the contractor, told him the timbers had been shifted, for which work £324 7s is allowed, the actual cost of the tarring being £133 15s 6d. Mr Warner in hie evidence says he would not think it necessary to require any extra labor for shifting these timbers for tarring. We have seen the timbers in question and agree with Mr Warner. 4. The asphalting, of its sort, was properly done, but as the planking which formed the foundation was not secure, it could not stand the effects of traffic. 5. The paintinp of the hand-railing appears to have been properly carried out. 6. The same remark applies to the contract for approaches and fencing. Ill—The sums of money paid for the works and supervision are:— £ s. d. Original and combined contract with Mr White, including the redemption of tolls aa per contract ... 32,464 0 0 Tarring and shifting timbers as per contract 458 2 6 Approaches and fencing as per contract 373 14 2 Painting hand-railing as per contract 240 0 0 Contract for asphalte 1,400 2 4 Extra work on do ... ... 2B 8 O Maintenance of do 190 8 0 Advertising 61) 8 10 Superintendent travelling expenses 11 15 0 Notice boards and painting ... 17 10 0 Clerks of works for supervision i g « Surveyors, labour, &c ... j Total £26,196 25 7 IV. The payments were authorised by the Provincial Engineer, or some other dulj qualified provincial officsr. V. The payments were made to the diffeient persons mentioned in the vouchers, copies of which are hereunto annexed. VI. As to the propriety of these payments, we report there has been great waste, in addition to the contractor, Mr White, having been materially overpaid; and in order to show this we muet refer to the omisflk ne and defects at 11th August, 1873
when Mr Thornton certified to the com-pl-tion of the bridge. At that time there were missing— t £ 8 - d - Liower walmcrs and braces for 55 bays, beiug 16,500 feet timber, at 25s per 100, valued 206 5 0 About 14.00') spikes 70 0 0 Hand-railing round shelter platforms .. 20 10 0 Material and labor in alteration in mode of docking ... ... 2303 1 4 This latter item Mr Thornton'in bis report entirely denies ; in fact, makes a stateraeut to support his view that the bridge aa completed on Is o 3 plan has cost the contractor ls4Jdper day more than if completed according to No 2 plan. This comparative statement is not of much value, as it was made up 'from data supplied by the contractor. We have had two other comparative statements of this work from quite independent quarters, the first being made by Mr J. P. Maxwell, the present General Government Engineer, in charge of the Christchurch district ; the other by Mr W. B Bray, originally the district engineer at the time the combined contract was mades. Mr Maxwell estimates a deficiency in value per span in No 3 plan as compared with No 2 plan of £7 Is 3d, to which should be added the value of sleepers supplied bj the Government, at 25s per 100 ft, the schedule price, equal to £3 15s per span, or a total of £10 16s 3d per span less value in No 3 than in No 2. Mr Maxwell, however, admits that it is impossible to estimate these values quite correctly without having been acquainted with the timber cut up. Mrßrayestimatesthe valueshort on No 3 plan as compared with No 2 plan at £10 6s 2ri per span. Accepting this, as there are 224 spans in the bridge, it amounts to an overpayment to the contractor of, as stated above, £2,303 Is 4d. The defective beams and walings will cost, according to Mr Warner's lowest estimate, £233 11s JOd to replace. The quantity of white pine planking declared valueless is 171,360 ft, which, at 25s per 100 ft, ig worth £2,142, without reckoning the labor or fastenings. Consequent on the bad and insecurely fixed planking the asphalte, which with maintenance cost £1616 18s 4d, was a total loss, as previously stated, and the sum of £324 7s was paid for shifting timbers for tarring without sufficient reason. In check ing Mr O'Connor's figures for tarring, Mr Thornton has omitted to deduct the sum of £20 15s allowed for tar for certain jointe by Mr Blackett and included in the contract sum of £8564. (S*e estimate at foot of Mr Blackett's letter of 27th February, 1871.) To sum up, there has been overpaid and wasted on the bridge the following amounts, viz:— £ s. d. Value of walings and braces not put in 206 5 0 Spikes saved by contractor for butta of planks 70 0 0 Hand railing round shelter platforms ... 20 10 0 Material and labour saved in alteration of mode of decking 2303 1 4 Estimated cost, of replacing defective beams, &c 233 1110 Value paid for white pine planks declared worthless ... 2142 0 0 Total loss of asphalte 1616 18 4 Unnecessary payment for lifting timbers to tar joints 324 7 0 Tarring of certain joints already paid for in general contract... 20 15 0 £6,937 8 6 VII. There are no sums of money due by the General or Provincial Governments to any contractors for the bridge, and none are claimed, but as the General Government has only paid the province £31,922 2s 6d on account of the work, it would appear there is still due to the province a balance of £4,2H 13s Id. VIII. The condition of the bridge when completed was that for railway purposes ; with the exception of the defective beams and walings mentioned in Mr Warner's report of 25th May, 1874, the bridge was a strong railway bridge, but it requires replanking to make it thoroughly fit for cart traffic. ! IX—The condition of the bridge now is much the same as at date of completion, except that the asphalte has entirely broken up. The usual clause for deductions has not been inserted in either contract No 1 or No 2, and as Mr Bray signed plan No 2 on behalf of the General Government, it may be presumed that he ought to have seen that the specifications were properly drawn out, and that deductions were provided for ; he denies, however, that he had anything whatever to do with the specifications. The whole conduct of the district engineers in connection with the Rakaia bridge has been of the loosest description. Mr Tancred re« tires from office without taking care to leave data as to the intention of the General Go* vernment regarding deviations sanctioned. His successor, Mr O'Connor, takes office, and is not aware on what plan the bridge is to be constructed. He consents to alterations and eventually paeses the bridge (on a memo randum from Mr George Phipps Williame) without having before him any authorised plan whatever. Mr O'Connor is partly responsible for the waste of money paid for ehifting timbers, for tarring, and chiefly responsible for the failure of the asphalte. If he had examined the flooring he was about to lay the asphalte on, he ought not to have done it, but the engineer to whom blame attaches all through is the Provincial Engineer. He was connected with the work from the commencement to the end, the inspectors were his direct subordinates, and the contract itself points to him as the chief officer who had power to interfere in the construction of the bridge, subject to the consent of the General Government. It is clearly shown by the evidence that it is a great mistake to construct a bridge or any other important work under the divided authority of two sets of engineers belonging to different Governments, unless their respective positions are most clearly laid before them and insisted on. We attach, as per appendix, copies of the plans, evidence, and documents referred to in this report. (Signed) John Inglis. (Signed) Josiah Bibch. (Signed) Andbbw Duncan.
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REPORT OF THE RAKAIA BRIDGE COMMISSION., Press, Volume XXIII, Issue 3059, 11 June 1875
REPORT OF THE RAKAIA BRIDGE COMMISSION. Press, Volume XXIII, Issue 3059, 11 June 1875
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