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Transport supremos to face parliament on Superway claims

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Senior transport officials could be hauled back before parliament’s Public Works Committee to answer questions raised about the integrity of the $842 million South Road Superway.

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InDaily revealed this month allegations by steel fixers who worked on the project – to date the most expensive road infrastructure in South Australia’s history – that hundreds of shear ties, designed to prevent the construction from collapsing during an earthquake, were not installed intact.

They claimed steel reinforcements were bent using oxy-acetylene torches, at temperatures higher than those at which steel bars can become structurally compromised.

Parliament’s Public Works Committee resolved during an in camera session on Thursday, the last sitting day of the year, to seek further answers from the Department of Planning Transport and Infrastructure.

Liberal committee member Tim Whetstone told InDaily he had demanded witnesses from the department should be recalled to answer questions in person.

“I think we need to call witnesses in, because the project still a current project in Public Works Committee … we are still receiving quarterly reports,” he said.

“I just thought it was significant enough to call for witnesses to come back in.”

He said the committee would seek answers from departmental executives Luigi Rossi and Andrew Milazzo, who oversaw the project over its construction.

“It’s about the integrity of the Superway,” he said.

“My background is toolmaking, so I know about steel’s integrity and that (article) just rang alarm bells.”

He said the committee would not hear from either witness until at least February, when it was next scheduled to meet, arguing: “I find it outrageous we have to wait that long.”

“We don’t know whether (the construction) met the proper standards, we don’t know whether (they used) the same batch of steel throughout … there’s talk they ran short of material,” he said.

“We don’t want a Superway that might last 20 years and not 50 years, because they took shortcuts three years ago.”

Labor has a majority on the Public Works Committee, but chair Annabel Digance said it was unanimously decided to write to the department seeking answers in the first instance.

“As chair, I’m very careful to make sure everyone’s voices are heard,” she said.

“I wouldn’t steamroll people against something they feel passionate about … in the main, we don’t look to vote down the Opposition.”

She said a letter was currently being drafted, which would be signed off by all committee members before being sent.

“If we feel we don’t get the information we need, we will look at recalling witnesses,” she said.

However, it appears likely the Liberal members, Whetstone and Michael Pengilly, will demand witnesses be recalled in any case.

A DPTI spokesman said in a statement: “There has been no request for any DPTI staff to appear before the Public Works Committee regarding the Superway project.”

After the InDaily story was published, Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan told ABC radio he had been advised “that on some occasions… there were changes to the design for how the steel super structure, or how the steel reinforcement, was to be constructed”.

“[But] they are comfortable that the structure is safe,” he said.

“It meets the design standards and it meets and exceeds the minimum design criteria that these sort of structures need to when they’re built.”

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