TWO firms have pulled out of the bidding to build Sunderland’s £118million new Wear bridge.
Ferrovial and Balfour Beatty are no longer competing for contracts for the cable-stayed crossing between Castletown and Pallion.
It leaves Northern Ireland-based Graham and Vinci of France as the only firms left in the running.
The moves sparked industry claims that the project could bite the dust, which have today been rejected by Sunderland Council.
Independent consultant Simon Bourne, a long-term critic of the scheme, believes it is too complex.
“Contractors will be terrified of it,” he told New Civil Engineer, house magazine of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
“It’s a very unusual bridge and very complicated to build.
“It saddens me to say, but I suspect that the scheme will just get cancelled.”
Mr Bourne claimed that the design of the bridge, with a tower on each side, would make it difficult to build and allow contractors little scope to innovate as they went along.
“It is equivalent to building the largest prestressed concrete bridge in the world –but vertically, not horizontally – on enormously large foundations.
“And then also building a deck as well, and then also connecting the two with cable stays.
“The risks of its hugely unique nature are very profound.”
However, council leader Paul Watson insisted it was still all systems go.
“Submitting a bid of this scale is not something international construction companies enter into lightly.
“Market forces determine that these companies must align their resources with the projects available to them.
“The New Wear Crossing forms part of the Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor that will open up significant development and investment opportunities, creating jobs and growth in Sunderland and the North East region.
“It will provide much-needed connectivity between key city locations, including the North East’s Low Carbon Enterprise Zone, major assets including the Port of Sunderland and the dynamic Nissan car plant.
“The project will further demonstrate Sunderland’s bold approach to economic regeneration. It will unlock private sector investment and acres of brownfield regeneration land for employment, housing and UK-based manufacturing.
“With two internationally-acclaimed contractors in the bidding process, Sunderland City Council is confident that it can deliver a landmark, affordable, and much needed new bridge across the Wear.
“As was demonstrated on the Best and Final Bid submitted to the Department for Transport, the project represents a very high return for the taxpayer, at a public value of £4 generated for every £1 spent.”