New Sunderland bridge pylon successfully lifted into place

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Sunderland's skyline has a magnificent new addition.

The New Wear Crossing's stunning 100metre centrepiece pylon has been lifted into position.

The New Wear Crossing pylon in place

The New Wear Crossing pylon in place

Work began at first light yesterday and carried on until dusk last night then resumed first thing this morning and by 9am the backmast, which has supported the pylon during the early stages of the lift process, had been disconnected.

The work was finally completed at 3.30pm.

Stephen McCaffrey is project director for FVB joint Venture, the company which is building the bridge.

"We are all delighted and very relieved," he said.

Patrick Van Severen, project director with  Victor Buyck Steel Construction, and site boss Stephen McCaffrey are VERY happy men.

Patrick Van Severen, project director with Victor Buyck Steel Construction, and site boss Stephen McCaffrey are VERY happy men.

"We did put a lot of time and effort in to the planning and we were aware of the potential problems.

"But you can plan it as much as you like - the most important thing is that it happens on the day.

"It went very smoothly - there were no problems, which is a big relief.

"We are all delighted to be here today, having successfully raised the pylon, but it is back to work on Monday. We now need to fix the pylon onto the massive concrete tusks it will rest on.

"The next stage is to push the bridge deck out from where it is sitting on the south side of the river to the north side.

"We could have built the pylon on-site, from the ground up, but we chose to fabricate it in one go, off site, in a factory environment because we had better control over conditions, got a better quality of finish and could avoid having people working at height.

"The transportation of the pylon from the fabrication yard in Belgium and the raising on site have been challenging but we planned well and the result was a successful operation."

Patrick Van Severen, project director for Victor Buyck Steel Constrrction, said a milestone had been reached but there was more to do.

"The sheer size and weight of the structure, as well as its shape, meant that getting it here on site, attached to the foundation and then raised into position took a lot of preparation and precision from a large team of people who each brought their skills to the project," he said.

"We had allowed the whole weekend for the raising operation, but we completed in less than 16 hours over two days, so we are very happy.

"Now our focus turns to the next phases of work. We will be launching the bridge deck out across the river in the Spring and will start connecting the cable stays in the summer.

"After that, people will really see their bridge come to life."

Sunderland City Council leader Coun Paul Watson said the difference between seeing the pylon in reality rather than on architect's plans and computer simulations was 'like watching Match of the Day on telly or going to the match in person.'

"The atmosphere, the ambience is completely different," he said.

"Walking out today, it feels like a really significant moment.

"It is a fantastic success story."

The challenge now was to deliver the benefits the bridge was intended to provide for Sunderland.

"It can't be overstated, the impact this project can have on the city, not just now but in the future for our children and grandchildren," said Coun Watson.

"We need to make sure it delivers what is was put there for, in terms of the econmic success, the social benefits, getting people into jobs."

The new bridge will have dual two-lane carriageways for vehicles, as well as dedicated cycle and pedestrian routes and will enhance public transport, as well as significantly improving the important transport links to the city centre and Port of Sunderland from the A19 and A1.

It is on track to open in the spring of 2018.