Wed | Mar 20, 2019

Road works costing FLOW millions

Published:Friday | August 31, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
Walter Brown (left), vice president of technology operations at FLOW, and Maurice Simpson (second left), FLOW’s civil works manager, check company cables damaged along Hagley Park Road, St Andrew during the expansion work to widen the roadway. Looking on are Keble Edwards (second right), FLOW’s outside plant design and engineering manager, and Wayne Marshall, engineer.

A preliminary $42 million tab for damage to its underground network caused by contractors carrying out road improvement work on behalf of the National Works Agency (NWA) is part of the financial toll telecommunications giant FLOW is facing.

This does not include the cost for correcting the extensive damage to a main duct line at the intersection of West Kings House and Constant Spring roads in St Andrew, which disrupted service to 230 mainly business customers on Sunday.

Vice-president of technology at FLOW Jamaica, Walter Brown, explained why repairs could not start before Wednesday even though the company was well aware of the disruption.

"We had a bit of a delay accessing the area because it was still an active excavation zone. However, we got permission, and yesterday, we started reconstruction/repair of our ducts, which were severely damaged. When those ducts are completed, then we'll run in the new cables and replace them to restore service," he told journalists yesterday during a media tour organised by the company.




The Portia Simpson Miller Square was the other location visited to provide some insight into the scope of the escalating infrastructural damage over which it has no control and which has been wreaking havoc with its service delivery.

According to Brown, the frequency and scale of the ongoing damage is unprecedented and caused in the main by a lack of adequate notification from the NWA that would easily facilitate proactive measures to protect its network and minimise the impact on customers.

He explained: "We have been working very closely with the National Works Agency in terms of mitigating the damage. Our simple proposal is around having at least 24 hours notice ahead of any major works. We do have precedence where notification is received, and we have mitigated damages to the infrastructure."


.... Contractors are responsible for damage - NWA

In addition to the high cost of repairs to its underground infrastructure caused by the ongoing road development across the Corporate Area, telecommunications company FLOW is spending significantly for overtime pay for which it did not budget. The company has to deploy technicians to troubled spots in quick response to customers whose business and personal services are being affected.

Add to that the amount the company spends on damage control via press advertisement and ventures such as yesterday's media tour to outline the extent of the problem. Still, FLOW remains committed to partnering with the Government on what it considers a national priority.

"We are not trying to stop the progress. We do recognise that it is of national importance, and right now, we (Jamaica) need as much overseas investment as possible that these developments will drive. So we continue to work with the Government, with the National Works Agency (NWA), on ensuring that we relocate our plants and keep the progress going on the road works," disclosed vice-president of technology at FLOW Jamaica, Walter Brown.

However, Stephen Shaw, NWA's manager, communication and customer service, told The Gleaner that the contract for the road development provides for the contractor to pay for damage caused by its work/workers.

However, on the question of whether the NWA has found any evidence, as claimed by FLOW, that in some cases, the damage was avoidable, Shaw stated via email, "Without more, we are not in a position to respond to this question."

He continued: "We continue to work with the providers in having their cables and such removed. We have engaged, and continue to engage, the parties regarding this critical work and the need to harmonise the efforts in a seamless way."