SUNDERLAND’S £118million iconic bridge has been scrapped.Now council bosses are going back to the drawing board, after admitting the high-profile project is just too expensive.
Designed by North East-born architect Stephen Spence, the new Wear Crossing was to have been the tallest bridge in England and Wales, with the highest of its two towers measuring 187m.
But a meeting of the council’s cabinet today will hear neither of the two contractors bidding for the project – Northern Ireland-based Graham and Vinci of France – has submitted a tender within the £118million budget.
Now the council is planning a simplified cable-stayed design that can be delivered within the budget and timeframe.
The new bridge will carry two lanes of traffic in both directions, have dedicated cycleways and footpaths along its full length and use the same sites as the existing plan.
City council leader, Coun Paul Watson, said: “While it is initially disappointing to learn the unique design cannot be built within the budget available, we must now move forward positively towards our vision for a new Sunderland bridge, albeit by modifying our approach.
“The simplified design will continue to embrace modern and tasteful design qualities, while maximising tested engineering technology and construction techniques. The fact that it is of cable-stayed design means that by its nature it will have a striking quality to it.
“It will sit within the same footprint and deliver on all of the benefits of the initial design, by reducing traffic congestion, improving connectivity and unlocking brownfield land – with its potential to increase growth, jobs and investment.
“What is most important is that we deliver a new crossing over the Wear. I have no doubt that the project team will quickly rise to this fresh challenge and I hope the city will embrace the new design once we are in a position to release further details.”
Next week’s meeting will be recommended to wind up the current scheme and approve the start of a new procurement process, based on a simplified bridge design. Coun Watson said changing the design, rather than seeking more public funding, was the right course of action.
“When the landmark design was first suggested, the city and the UK economy were in a very different place,” he said.
“Given the current economic climate we will not be seeking further funding, instead we must review our plans and work within our means.
“Sunderland undoubtedly needs a new bridge over the Wear to unlock under-utilised land and improve infrastructure, attract further investment to support the city’s long-term economic growth and prosperity, as well as that of the wider North East region.
“Delivering a new bridge as soon as possible is the priority for us now and a simplified design approach is the smart and achievable solution.”