Modernisation of the D1 motorway cost CZK 28.1 billion: potholes on the roadway, poor quality repairs, bridges and overpasses in a state endangering traffic safety
Press release on audit No 21/37 – 9 May 2023
The SAO reviewed the modernisation of the D1 motorway on a 160.8 km long section between the towns Mirošovice and Kývalka, which was to bring improvements in safety and comfort for users. At the same time, the SAO examined whether the CZK 28.1 billion, drawn from the budget of the European Union (EU) and the state, were spent by the Ministry of Transport (MoT), the Road and Motorways Directorate (RMD) and the State Fund for Transport Infrastructure (SFTI) efficiently, effectively and economically. The audit revealed that the modernisation of the D1 motorway was not complete. Several repaired sections of the motorway included bridges and overpasses which remained in a state endangering traffic safety and the repaired sections of the roadway were being damaged by overloaded lorries, which reduced its lifespan. The auditors further drew attention to the poor quality of repairs which left the roadway uneven in many parts and thus the driving comfort was negatively impacted. Furthermore, the audit showed that the modernisation of some rest areas had not been completed and parking spaces for lorries had not been created. The MoT neither addressed the quality of the modernisation, nor the number and causes of defects on the modernised sections of the motorway. The MoT and the RMD have not yet assessed the modernisation of the D1 motorway in a comprehensive manner.
The modernisation of the D1 motorway is not complete. In November 2022, i.e. at the time of the completion of the SAO audit, eight modernised sections of the motorway had not received a final approval, and in five cases the final approval had been in a preparatory stage. The RMD, MoT and SFTI did not have an overall schedule and financial plan for all the projects which were necessary for the completion of the modernisation of the motorway.
Although the aim of the modernisation was not only to improve traffic safety but also to improve the comfort of motorway users, the poor quality of construction works and the problematic rectification of defects reduced overall driving comfort. The roadway was also being significantly damaged and its lifespan reduced by overloaded vehicles. In March and April 2022, the only available high-speed weight purchased for the D1 motorway revealed that in 17,216 cases the weight limit of vehicles was breached. In the following months, the weight was out of order. However, by the end of the SAO audit, the RMD had sent only 448 complaints to the competent Road Administration in Jihlava to initiate infringement proceedings. The MoT neither addressed the results of the high-speed check weighing of vehicles, nor the number of journeys of overloaded lorries.
There are 164 motorway bridges and 46 overpasses on the modernised part of the D1 motorway between the towns of Mirošovice and Kývalka. One of the objectives of upgrading the motorway was to ensure its good condition, as it is essential for safe and seamless traffic. The SAO audit showed that nine bridges and three overpasses remained in poor or very poor condition. The RMD was addressing their repairs and refurbishments in separate projects. However, there was no binding schedule or financial plan for the implementation of these projects. The MoT did not monitor the actual repair process of the bridges and overpasses and neither had an overview of their current status, nor of the progress of the repairs. These issues were already raised by the SAO in 2020 (Audit No 19/10). Neither the Ministry of Transport, nor the RMD effectively addressed the problems related to the bridges.
An example of a bridge in a very bad condition is the arc of the Šmejkalka bridge which is 253.52 metres long. In June 2022, the RMD provided a provisional support mechanism for the bridge structure to ensure its operability until reconstruction. However, the date of completion of the reconstruction of this bridge is not yet known. It was initially due to be completed by December 2015. However, the RMD excluded the reconstruction of the bridge from the upgrade of the D1 motorway and dealt with it separately. Motorway traffic is also threatened by the very poor condition of the motorway overpass near the town of Hrusice. The RMD had been aware of the need for its urgent reconstruction since 2019. However, when upgrading the D1 motorway, it did not deal with it on the ground that the bridge had a different owner. The Ministry of Transport did not address the poor condition of this overpass, nor did it address the unsafe condition of the overpass over the modernised section 16 of the motorway near the town of Jihlava. This overpass was classified by the Building Authority in Jihlava as a construction threatening the health and lives of people, as well as the safety and fluidity of motorway traffic. The overpass does not have a designated owner and thus has not been maintained for a long time.
The auditors found that the RMD documentation concerning the findings and resolution of the defects was incomplete; according to the examples given in the SAO audit report the findings were chaotic, containing contradictions and ambiguities. There is therefore a risk of complications in complaints procedures. The RMD submitted to the auditors documents related to only 13 of the 20 modernised motorway sections. The 145 complaints submitted contained 605 different defects, such as broken edges of cement concrete slabs, potholes etc. The RMD is currently addressing further complaints. Contrary to the contracts concluded and RMD internal rules, the RMD did not ensure that suppliers carry out repairs of defects in good quality and within specified deadlines. The repeated occurrence of defects indicates the poor performance of repairs.
The shortage of parking spaces for heavy lorries on the modernised section of the D1 motorway has still not been resolved. During the modernisation of the motorway, the RMD increased the number of these parking spaces by 169, but this is only about 55% of the capacity required. Furthermore, the audit revealed that in 2015 and 2020, no funds were earmarked in the SFTI budgets for the modernisation of the motorway, even though some projects had been developed and it was necessary to ensure the funding of their completion. The SAO considers such a method of funding to be non-systemic.
The period from 2016 to November 2022, when the SAO audit was completed, was under review. The progress of the audit was negatively affected by a cyber-attack on the RMD information systems, which caused that certain documents and information was unavailable.
The condition of the roadway and selected overpasses of the reconstructed D1 motorway
Overpass near the town of Hrusice
Overpass near the town of Jihlava
Broken edges of cement concrete slabs
Supreme Audit Office