Top marks for Sunderland’s New Wear Crossing

The 300m bridge deck is now in place across the River Wear.
The 300m bridge deck is now in place across the River Wear.
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Sunderland’s New Wear Crossing site is top of the class.

The project has been ranked as ‘exceptional’ after a visit by construction industry inspectors.

Coun Paul Watson and Stephen McCaffrey

Coun Paul Watson and Stephen McCaffrey

The Considerate Constructors Scheme, which aims to improve the image of the construction industry and promote best practice, has given the work 45 marks out of a possible 50 – the rolling 12-month industry average score is 35.6.

The construction site, including office and welfare areas, was inspected before the project team gave a presentation on what it was doing to raise standards, communicate and engage with the people of Sunderland and ensure health and safety guidelines were met.

The project scored nine out of ten in each of the five areas covered, which were:

*care about appearance;

*respect the community;

*protect the environment;

*secure everyone’s safety

*value their workforce.

Construction sites, companies and suppliers voluntarily register with the scheme and agree to abide by the Code of Considerate Practice, designed to encourage best practice beyond statutory requirements.

A spokesman said the New Wear Crossing site was “extremely clean, tidy and well organised” and that there were “robust environmental systems and procedures in place.”

“The procedures in place for keeping people informed are exceptional. Safety is given high priority and is supported by the inspection regime, training and consultations, all of which ensure the highest levels of safety performance.”

Sunderland City Council leader Coun Paul Watson said he was delighted with the results and said the partnership approach on site was behind the success.

Farrans Construction and Victor Buyck Steel Construction, which formed FVB Joint Venture to deliver the project on behalf of Sunderland City Council, are working on site alongside a team from Atkins, which was brought in by the local authority to supervise the project.

Coun Watson said: “The project teams are working hard to make sure that Sunderland’s new bridge is just as impressive as we intended it to be, and that the best interests of the city are met. The community engagement programmes are excellent.”

Stephen McCaffrey, Project Director for FVB, said: “The construction of the New Wear Crossing is the largest project in the North East and it is important to FVB and the delivery team that we are at the forefront of adopting and promoting best practices.

“We understand that construction activities can cause disruption and we are ever conscious of the need to minimise this, be good neighbours and to look after the environment.”

Jim Kilcar, Bridge Supervisor for Atkins, added: “A project of this size and complexity requires a lot of planning and detail, and throws up regular challenges, but the whole team is determined to not only deliver this new bridge on time, on budget and to a first class standard, but we also want to deliver best practice, be good neighbours and continue to improve and out-perform.

“It’s great to have the project recognised for exceptional work in achieving this goal.”

What the crossing means

The New Wear Crossing is the second of five phases of the Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor, to improve links between the A19 and Sunderland City Centre and the Port of Sunderland.

The new bridge will be a two span cable-stayed structure, crossing the River Wear between Castletown on the north to Pallion on the south bank, and boasting two lanes of traffic in each direction, plus dedicated cycleways and footpaths along its full length.

Work on site started in March 2015, and initially involved extensive demolition and land clearing before construction could begin.

March 2016 saw work in the river itself start in earnest, with the construction of a new cofferdam - a large watertight steel structure in the middle of the river.

That allowed work to start on the foundations of the bridge’s massive central pylon, while the bridge deck was constructed on the south bank.

The first section of deck was pushed out 120 metres in the river in October, while the massive central pylon arrived in the city in the first week of January, having been built in Belgium and transported across the North Sea by barge.

It made the three-mile trip up-river to the Pallion construction site shortly afterwards and was lifted into place over the course of a weekend in February before being bolted into place and the foundations filled with concrete.

Last month saw the deck eased into place through the pylon and now just a short length remains to be erected on the north bank before the cables which will support the deck are put in place.

The bridge is due to open in spring next year.