Track progress of New Wear Crossing's centrepiece as it heads for Sunderland

The pylon is moved to the barge in Belgium.

The pylon is moved to the barge in Belgium.

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The focal point of Sunderland's new bridge is on its way to the city after setting sail.

The giant pylon which will support the New Wear Crossing left the Port of Ghent, in Belgium, this lunchtime.

The pylon begins its journey to Sunderland.

The pylon begins its journey to Sunderland.

It is expected to arrive in Sunderland in two days' time on the barge Louis.

The A-frame pylon will stand 105m above the River Wear, and is due to reach Wearside either late Saturday afternoon or on Sunday morning, depending on conditions at sea.

The leader of Sunderland City Council, Coun Paul Watson, said: “The pylon is an impressive structure and is really the focal point of Sunderland’s New Wear Crossing project, so it’s exciting to know that it’s arriving in just a couple of days.

"I can’t wait to see it come through the piers into port.

Work on the New Wear Crossing in Sunderland.

Work on the New Wear Crossing in Sunderland.

“I think people will be surprised at how striking the pylon is.

"People might like to take the opportunity to come out and watch as it arrives, or to have a look while it’s in port. You won’t be disappointed."

When the pylon approaches Wearside, it will be met by harbour tug boats about a mile off the entrance to the port.

It will then be brought through the Roker and New South piers, before berthing at Greenwells Quay.

The bridge is due to open in the spring of 2018, and will link Castletown to the north of the Wear with Pallion to the south.

It will have dual two-lane carriageways for vehicles, as well as cycle and pedestrian routes.

The bridge is being built on behalf of the council by Farrans Construction and Victor Buyck Steel Construction, known as FVB Joint Venture.

The transportation of the pylon is being carried out by Sarens, a world leader in heavy lifting and engineered transport.

Matthew Hunt, port director at the Port of Sunderland, said: “We have been working closely with Sarens and the FVB team during the past 18 months on the construction of the new bridge, and to make sure everything is in place for the arrival of the pylon.

“From what I have seen, it’s an impressive structure, and is quite a size, so I think we are all quite excited to actually see it come into port.

“The pylon will be berthed here for a few weeks, where it will be prepared for its journey up the River Wear to the site in a few weeks’ time.

“If people want to see it, I would advise that they go to the roof of the National Glass Centre, as you get a great view of the port from there.

"I think it will be a sight to behold.”

The pylon left the Port of Ghent at 12.10pm, and people can follow its progress by visiting www.marinetraffic.com and searching for the progress of tug boat En Avant 10, which is towing the barge across the North Sea.