Date announced for opening of Sunderland's new Northern Spire bridge
Sunderland's majestic new bridge will open to pedestrians and traffic next week.
Northern Spire will welcome members of the public on foot on Tuesday, August 28 before officially opening to traffic on Wednesday, August 29.
The bridge will welcome pedestrians on Tuesday from 12pm until 8pm - but vehicles will not be allowed to cross the bridge or use the link roads until after the official opening the following day.
Three Sunderland-built Nissan vehicles, including the Qashqai and 100% electric Leaf, will be the first to travel across the bridge following the unveiling on Wednesday afternoon.
Coun Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: "I am delighted that Northern Spire is opening to traffic next week.
"It looks stunning and is a great addition to the Sunderland skyline."
“It’s a proud moment for Sunderland. This bridge is a wonderful structure that firmly puts us on the map.
"I hope lots of people come out and take the opportunity to walk across it on Tuesday. They won’t be disappointed.”
More than 2,000 people have been involved on the bridge project, with work starting in May 2015. In that time, they have clocked up more than a million working hours.
Originally scheduled to open in the spring, the bridge's unveiling was delayed as a result of poor weather earlier in the year. The region was hit heavily by snow, rain, ice and wind.
Northern Spire will become the highest structure in the North East, standing at twice the height of Nelson's Column and taller than Big Ben's clock tower.
In February, the bridge was visited by the Duke and Duchess on Cambridge on their trip to the city.
The couple met with construction workers and local schoolchildren before putting their own finishing touch to the structure. They each helped to tighten a bolt with a spanner.
Mark Jackson, head of infrastructure and transportation at Sunderland Council, added: "Not only does Northern Spire look impressive, but it will bring enormous benefits to the city, not least in making it easier and quicker for people to travel around Sunderland.
“It will reduce congestion and travel time, and will also open up huge areas of land along the River Wear for regeneration, whilst also attracting investment, boosting the economy and leading to more jobs.
“Northern Spire is a significant part of the future plans for Sunderland. The city is open for business and is looking towards a bright future.”
The bridge is part of the council's wider plans to improve the road network between the A19 and Sunderland city centre, and the Port of Sunderland. It links Pallion to the south of the river with Castletown in the North.
It is the second part of a five-phase plan, the Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor.
The next phase is a dual carriageway that will pick up where Northern Spire ends on the south side, linking the new bridge to St Mary’s Boulevard, going under Queen Alexandra bridge.
This is expected to be complete in 2021.
Stephen McCaffrey, Project Director for Farrans Victor Buyck Joint Venture, which has delivered the bridge on behalf of the council, has said it was a "privilege" to be involved in its creation.
He added: "We hope people enjoy travelling over Northern Spire as much as we have enjoyed building it.”
David Abdy, project director for the council, said that the bridge was the culmination of decades of hard work, determination and perseverance.
No one person or team could have delivered it, he said, and it is "wonderful" to finally see the hard work come to fruition.
David added: “It has come a little later than planned, but I think people will agree that it has been worth waiting for."