Crowds flock as Sunderland's Northern Spire bridge is opened to the public

The Northern Spire is open at last.

Hundreds of people flocked to Sunderland's stunning new bridge today as it opened to the public at noon today and thousands are expected to cross before it closes at 8pm, ahead of tomorrow's opening to traffic.

Not everyone was on foot

Not everyone was on foot

Pedestrians and cyclists queued for the chance to be a part of history as the three-year construction project finally comes to an end.

The bridge is expected to provide a major boost for Sunderland's economy.

Among the first to cross were sisters Joyce Turnbull and Ellen Morrison.

Joyce, 76, is from Sunderland, while 70-year-old Ellen was making a visit back to the city to see family from her home in Wales.

Stepping out

Stepping out

The pair were impressed by what they saw: "It's lovely, "said Joyce.

"It is great for the North East to have something like this."

Ellen was last home in March: "The bridge looked then like it was coming on well," she said.

"I think it is magnificent."

John Sumner

John Sumner

John Schakel, 40, has been keeping an eye on progress on the drive from home in Southwick to work in Washington.

"I pass it every night," he said.

"it is good to see it finished."

Amber, nine, thought the new Northern Spire was 'cool' while Danny was delighted to get the chance to walk across it before the traffic started to flow.

Jeff and Julie Tye with Jack the Border Terrier

Jeff and Julie Tye with Jack the Border Terrier

"It is a good idea," he said.

Julie and Jeff Tye had brought Jack the Border Terrier down from home in Barnes.

"We normally take him out in the morning but we delayed it today so we could come and see the bridge," said Julie, 54.

"It's brilliant., We went to Consett last week, and you could see it all the way from there."

"It's great," said 60-year-old Jeff.

"It should have been done years ago."

Joyce Turnbull and Ellen Morrison

Joyce Turnbull and Ellen Morrison

Mum Neaera Warren had brought sons Byron, 10, and eight-year-old Jayden down, along with friend Jack Taylor, also ten.

"I think it's fantastic," she said.

Jack had made the most of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: "I liked being able to lie down in the road because there are no cars," he said, while Jayden thought the bridge was 'amazing.'

Byron was less impressed: "Boring," he sniffed.

Sixty-year-old John Sumner was among the first person to cycle across the bridge.

"As an engineering project, it is fantastic, and it's great to see everybody down here," said John, from Fulford Park.

Alijohn Zamora and wife Annjanette had brought children Ailia, 10, and five-yeare-old Anthony from their home in Millfield and were queuing at noon

Alijohn works at Unipres in Washington and has been excited to see the bridge's progress.

"I have been waiting for this moment," he said.

Annjannette and Ailia were impressed with the design.

"Architecturally, it is beautiful," said Annjanette, while Ailia added: "They have really put a lot of thought into it."

City council leader Coun Graeme Miller was delighted by today's turn-out: "I am not at all surprised," he said.

"I think we are going to see thousands because the people of Sunderland are very, very keen to be part of the opening of this bridge.

"People are very pleased and very happy."

For construction manager Ryan Rogan, seeing the end of the project was a bittersweet moment, but he was delighted members of the public had been given a chance to see the bridge up close.

"Civil engineering is usually buried in the bowels of the Earth," he said.

"But people are getting a chance to enjoy it here."

John Schakel with Danny and Amber

John Schakel with Danny and Amber

Neaera Warren with (from left) Byron, Jack Taylor, and Jayden

Neaera Warren with (from left) Byron, Jack Taylor, and Jayden

Annjanette and Alijohn Azamora, with children Ailia and Anthony

Annjanette and Alijohn Azamora, with children Ailia and Anthony