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Steel woes force Huntly bridge redesign

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 31/05/2016

Substandard steel imported from China has forced contractors building the Huntly section of the Waikato Expressway to redesign the piles for two bridges.

The $458 million project, a joint venture between Fulton Hogan and HEB Construction, hit a hiccup when 1600 tonnes of steel tube piles arrived from China and tests in February discovered they weren't up to scratch.

The steel tubes were meant to be driven into the ground and used as piles.

However, they have now essentially been filled with concrete and used as reinforced concrete piles in two of the four bridges.

"This approach has been successful and does not compromise on quality or safety of the end design," Fulton Hogan project director Tony Dickens said in a statement.

Replacement steel tube piles may be used on the other two bridges.

They had immediately raised the issue with New Zealand supplier Steel and Tube Holdings, he said.

In a statement S&T said they acknowledged the parts were not up to specifications despite several checks and said it was in discussions with multiple groups in New Zealand and China.

The New Zealand Transport Agency says it won't be out of pocket.

"The costs for redesigning construction and replacing materials is borne by the contractor - there is zero cost to the taxpayer," highways manager Tommy Parker said.

The new pile design was independently peer reviewed and approved.

"There is absolutely no quality compromise between steel pipe piles and reinforced concrete piles," he said.

"Both do exactly the same job and last exactly the same time."

The project would not be delayed because the problem had been picked up early and the contractors came up with the alternative design within six weeks, he said.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges says it's highly unlikely there will be any other roading projects affected by the same problems.

"The advice I've had is that's not an issue because steel effectively is done batch by batch, so it's incredibly unlikely we'd have another batch of the same steel with these same issues," he told reporters.

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