Sunderland’s new Wear Crossing will be ‘fantastic.’
That’s the verdict from the UK’s leading civil engineer after he visited the construction site to see progress on the massive project for himself.
Sir John Armitt, President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), was on Wearside yesterday as part of a visit to the North East.
The former chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority and the Chief Executive of Network Rail, Sir John was instrumental in the delivery of HS1, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.
“It is going to be fantastic,” he said. “It is going to be a very attractive bridge.
“Bridges are wonderful things - they connect communities, they create opportunities for new development.”
It is going to be fantastic. It is going to be a very attractive bridge.Sir John Armitt
The new bridge, which will link Castletown and Pallion, which will have an A-frame pylon that will reach 105m in height, and is due to be completed in spring 2018.
It is one of the largest civil engineering projects in the North East and is the first bridge to be built over the River Wear in more than 40 years.
During this site visit, Sir John received an in-depth briefing on the project and its progress, before taking a tour of the site and meeting workers responsible for its construction.
His visit to Sunderland was part of a tour of the North East, during which he met rail apprentices in Gateshead and judged a schools engineering competition at Durham New College.
The bridge project was an excellent example of the importance of keeping local residents informed, he said.
“It is very important to show people what we are doing, to communicate with our communities,” he said.
“We need to be explaining to people what we are doing, why we are doing it and what the benefits will be, because all they are seeing is the inconvenience.
“And its great to see school visits to sites like this and people from here going out and talking to schools. “
Stephen McCaffrey, Project Director of FVB Joint Venture, which is building the new bridge, said: “We were delighted to welcome Sir John to the site and to be able to show him the progress made so far.
“Sir John has a wealth of experience and knowledge in civil engineering, and a great passion for design and construction, so it was an honour for us to be able to explain the complexities of this specific project and the processes involved.”
Work on the project took a major step forward yesterday, with the new cofferdam – a large watertight steel structure in the middle of the river which will allow the construction team to work below the water level - approaching completion.
“Excavation of the cofferdam has finished today, said Stephen.
“We expect the first pouring of concrete next week.”
David Abdy,is the city council’s project director on the crossing and said work on the scheme was progressing well.
“We are a year in and we are pretty much where we thought we were going to be,” he said.
Council leader Coun Paul Watson said: “The skill, time and precision that goes into designing and constructing a project of this scale is enormous, and Sir John was genuinely interested in how things are progressing.”