Cape Town - 091009 - Chapmans Peak was finally reopened today. Tourists flocked to watch the sunset. Photo: Matthew Jordaan

Cape Town - A section of the cutting where the Chapman’s Peak toll plaza is being built appears to have collapsed, tearing the wire netting and leaving some of the strengthening rods suspended in air. It apparently happened on Saturday.

Siphesihle Dube, spokesman for the provincial government’s department of transport and public works, said he was not aware of the landslide, and would make enquiries with Entilini, the toll road concessionaire, to establish what had happened.

John Compton, a geologist at UCT, said on Sunday that the section of mountain where the toll plaza was being built was very weathered granite and was unstable. While engineers would probably come up with a design to make the cutting more stable, this was likely to add to the cost.

“The road cuttings along Chapman’s Peak reveal a very thick, rotten granite that is normally covered by vegetation. It’s thick, yellow and crumbly. It’s a classic problem when building a road: you artificially produce a steeper slope, which is not as stable as it was before.

“I’m not a geo-engineer, but I see examples of what happens in engineering and the natural environment. I think they will probably come up with a design, but it’s likely to be a large addition to the expense, say from R53 million to R80m.

“It does call into question the rationale for building it there, which was always a bit dubious from my perspective. I suspect they will have to spend money to make it stable,” Compton said.

Fiona Hinds, one of the protesters who chained herself to the construction works in February in a bid to halt the toll plaza, said on Sunday: “We’ve always warned them about the unstable slope. Now the mountain’s caught up with them.”

There were heavy rains last week, with flooding in several areas.

The Cape Times was unable to contact Murray & Roberts for comment on Sunday.

Cape Times