FIVE construction firms are reported to be preparing to bid for the right to build Sunderland’s new Wear bridge.
Council chiefs confirmed in February they had begun the search for a developer for the £117million-plus project and had drawn up a five-name shortlist.
Balfour Beatty, Ferrovial, Graham Construction, Skansk and Vinci are the names now reported within the industry, though the city council is remaining tight-lipped.
News that the long-planned project was to become a reality came in December, when Department for Transport (DfT) chiefs confirmed an £82.5million grant towards the cost.
It is hoped work could begin this year, with the new crossing due to open to traffic as early as 2015.
Plans for the bridge have been on the drawing board since the 1980s but there had been fears the Government’s wave of public sector spending cuts had killed off the project.
But Sunderland City Council put in a bid for funding in September after the Government said £630million was being made available for local authority projects that could help boost economic growth and create jobs.
The council believes the project – which will link Castletown on the north bank of the Wear to Pallion on the south – will generate £4 in economic benefit for every £1 it costs.
A public inquiry into compulsory purchase orders required as part of the plans closed last month and Transport Secretary Justine Greening will rule on its findings.
Sunderland City Council leader Coun Paul Watson said: “The investment in a strategic infrastructure scheme will open up regeneration sites along the River Wear and bring forward investment to Sunderland.
“We see this project as an integral part of Sunderland’s ongoing regeneration as it can help create thousands of new jobs by improving links between the A19, the city centre and the Port of Sunderland.
“There has been talk for a long time that Sunderland has needed a major new road crossing over the River Wear.
“This is an issue that has not gone away and I know the city and region is grateful for this opportunity to start work on this landmark project.
“The bold design of the new bridge is architecturally significant – it will become a confident and symbolic landmark for Sunderland and the North East.
“We can now look to a major development that adds to Sunderland’s vibrancy and furthers the regeneration of our city.”