Next stage of New Wear Crossing construction to start tomorrow

The pylon in position
The pylon in position
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The stunning centrepiece of Sunderland's New Wear Crossing will be lifted into position tomorrow morning.

The operation to begin lifting the 100metre high central pylon will begin at about 8am.

The pylon ready to be raised

The pylon ready to be raised

It will be the first time anything of this size has been raised in this way since the London Eye was lifted in 1999.

Specialist engineers are today completing the final preparations before the operation gets underway to lift the 1550-tonne pylon – which is equivalent in weight to 125 double decker busses.

Thousands of people are expected to line the banks of the River Wear to watch as the pylon is slowly raised 90 degrees during a challenging procedure which is expected to take at least 24 hours to complete.

Standing at twice the height of Nelson’s Column and bigger than Big Ben’s clock tower, the pylon will be visible from some considerable distance on both sides of the river.

An exclusion zone will be in place around the site to ensure spectators are kept at a safe distance, and people are being asked to respect both barriers and members of the marshalling team, who will be in place throughout the operation.

People are also being asked not to fly drones in the area throughout the two-day raising process. The flying of drones without a licence and permission of the landowner is potentially illegal and dangerous, and in this instance could hamper operations or lead to an accident.

Sunderland City Council leader Coun Paul Watson said the raising operation would be a sight to behold.

"I think this is the moment we have all been waiting for, when we see this impressive structure raised up over the River Wear during what I believe will be a real engineering spectacle," he said.

"This new bridge is going to bring great things to Sunderland, and the raising of the pylon symbolises the beginning of that.

"The bridge will enable land along the south banks of the river to be regenerated, it will attract investment into Sunderland, and with that will come new jobs, too.

"The pylon is being raised this week, and so too are our ambitions for this great city."

In recent days, the pylon has been connected to two tusk-like structures built into the riverbed foundations that stand eight meters tall and rise up out of the water. They will support the A-frame once it is in its final position.

A temporary backmast has been attached to the pylon and connected to four strand jacks that are anchored 30m into the ground on the south embankment. Together they will pull the pylon into position.

Stephen McCaffrey, Project Director for Farrans Victor Buyck Joint Venture (FVB), which is delivering the project on behalf of Sunderland City Council, said the raising of the pylon was an exciting time for everyone involved.

"We have been working towards this point since we broke ground on the project 20 months ago, so I think we are all looking forward to seeing the centrepiece take its final position over the river," said Stephen.

"Lifting something of this weight and size is complex and takes a lot of planning and expertise. This operation has been calculated to the millimetre, so it will be very slow and measured - it cannot be rushed. There have been a lot of things to get in place, and we also needed the right weather window, but we are ready.

"Engineering achievements of this scale don’t happen very often, so I think it will be quite something for people to watch – even for us working on the project. It will take at least 24 hours to complete, so hopefully people will have a chance to see it."

The movement and raising of the pylon is being carried out by Sarens, a world leader in heavy lifting and engineered transport, in partnership with FVB.

Carl Sarens, Technical Solutions and Engineering Director, said: "We are delighted to be working on the New Wear Crossing. It’s a complex project, with a vast range of technical challenges, particularly around the raising of the pylon, but once complete it will obviously have a huge impact on Sunderland.

"Bridges connect communities, they open up land for development and they very often create a new sense of pride among people. The centrepiece is a magnificent structure, so we are looking forward to lifting it into place."

The new bridge will link Castletown to the north of the River Wear with Pallion to the south, and will have dual two-lane carriageways for vehicles, as well as dedicated cycle and pedestrian routes. It will enhance public transport, as well as significantly improve 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.

*Northumbria Police has issued a warning to drone operators who flout the law during the raising of the pylon.

It is against the law to fly drones within 150 metres of people and buildings and over industrial sites, without prior approval first.

Police have reiterated the importance of drone operators avoiding the vicinity of the bridge construction site throughout the raising operation on both Friday and Saturday.

Sergeant Mark Boustead, of Northumbria Police’s Operations Department, said: "The public need to know that if we identify them as flying a drone in this area they could be prosecuted.

"Flying these types of aircraft within 150 metres of a congested area is a criminal offence and may contravene air safety legislation. Those found violating that rule could face criminal prosecution.

"Not only could flying drones in the area affect the installation of the centrepiece, but it could put members of the public in the area at risk."

All drone operators must be aware of the rules set out by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regarding drone flights, and follow the guidelines. For additional information, go to www.dronesafe.uk