SENIOR councillors have selected their preferred firm to build a major new road bridge across the River Wear.
Sunderland City council’s ruling cabinet met today to officially decide their preferred bidder for the scheme, which is now subject to final funding approval from the Government.
An official announcement on the contractor and more updates about the project are due when final Government approval is confirmed, expected to be at the end of February.
Council leader Paul Watson said: “This decision on the preferred bidder concludes the City Council’s procurement process.
“Subject to the Government’s final funding approval, the council can make its official announcement and look to the construction phase for this hugely important project.
“The bridge and associated road network are set to bring significant economic, regeneration and transport benefits to Sunderland and the wider North East region.”
Civil engineering and construction companies were invited to tender when a contract notice for its design and construction was published in the EU Official Journal in May last year.
These steps all followed confirmation from the Government in March 2014 that up to £82.5m of Department for Transport funding is set aside for the project. The funding is part of the Sunderland City Deal in Partnership with South Tyneside.
Construction tenders for the bridge scheme closed on Friday 5 December.
The cabinet meeting heard details of how the contractor has committed to providing recruitment opportunities for young people, apprenticeships, and for people who may have been unemployed for six months or more.
The contractor will also work with the city and regional supply chain so that small and medium-sized companies can benefit from the works.
The bridge is to be cable-stayed and cross the River Wear between Castletown on the north side to Pallion on the south.
It will have two lanes of traffic in both directions and dedicated cycleways and footpaths along its full length.
This is in line with the revised planning permission which was granted in August 2014.
Subject to the final Government funding approval, works are anticipated to start by summer 2015.
The news on the preferred bidder comes after the council decided to scrap plans for a more elaborate landmark bridge in the wake of funding cuts.