The Demerara bridge was the second largest floating bridge in the world at time of construction
Stabroek News
September 5, 2001

Dear Editor,

It is sometimes difficult to recall the details of recent history, if not faithfully recorded, or when official records are lost. So it happens that people are understandably ill informed about events which occurred just thirty or forty years ago. I feel obliged to respond to Mr Khan's invitation for my comment on points raised in his letter in SN, August 30, concerning the Demerara Harbour Bridge and the Linden Highway, with both of which projects I was associated.

It is perhaps a bit exuberant to describe the Demerara Harbour Bridge as "one of the recent wonders of the world at the time of its launching" as Mr Lorrie Alexander suggested in his letter in SN of August 28. The bridge had certain features which were attractive to professional engineers in other countries. For instance, it was at the time the second largest floating bridge in the world (being 6074 feet in length); it was the only floating bridge with a retractor span, and it was a comparatively cheap solution to crossing a wider river at its estuary at a cost of pounds sterling 6,603,931. Many foreign engineers were invited to inspect it by the designers, Messrs Thomas Storey (Engineers) Ltd of England.

However, our bridge was a modification of the original Bailey Bridge which was a secret device used by the British to take the allied armies across the Rhine in their final offensive against Germany in 1944. At that time it was a sensation, but not in 1978 when it was launched here. The person to be credited with initiating the project and taking it to fruition was the Minister of Economic Development and Planning, Mr Desmond Hoyte, who secured a loan for its purchase from British bankers, Kleinwort Benson Ltd.

The Linden Highway was conceived in 1961 when USAID sponsored a feasibility study of a route from Georgetown to Lethem. It was identified as an important link in the route, even though its precise location was still undetermined. It is true that the actual location and design were completed by the Roads Division, but this was done in 1966-67 under my supervision. Subsequently, when USAID agreed to finance construction their consultants made some changes but it was basically our design which was implemented in 1969.

Allow me to conclude with a future perspective which should not be restricted to the Government in office. Your newspaper proudly highlights the fact that a Brazilian contractor is mobilising to bridge the Takutu river and many people are enthusiastic about cross-border trade with Brazil. We can even envisage Brazilian traffic rolling over the hills of the Linden Highway towards a terminal facility on the coast. But what happens when Brazilian drivers, accustomed to driving on the right-hand side of the road find themselves facing our oncoming traffic? The Mothers in Black would continue to mourn unless we begin to plan now to avoid confusion.

Yours faithfully,

Philip Allsopp