The next stage of the New Wear Crossing has turned into a soap story - with heaps of jelly detergent being used to ensure moving its deck into place goes smoothly.
A 286-metre section is being pulled into place by jacks as it glides over 10 launch bearings, with the Teflon plates coated in the substance to ensure its journey is snag free.
The operation began on Sunday and will take until Tuesday afternoon at the earliest to complete, with the deck moving at around 10 metres an hour as work continues during daylight hours.
Once it is pushed into position from the Pallion side of the £117.6million structure, another 40-metre section will be constructed to join south with north.
The girders and pre-cast concrete sections which make up the base of the bridge were constructed on site, with the blue noses positioned each side helping to guide its direction.
Soap is being used on the plates rather than grease because it can be washed off and will not leave a lasting residue.
This is another very important milestone for the whole project.Mark Jackson, Sunderland City Council’s head of infrastructure and transport
The tubes - or anchorage consoles - can be seen on the side of the deck, and are to be used to connect the cables with the 105-metre pylon.
Simon Fryer, the design project manager for Burnohappold, which designed the bridge, was on hand to watch as the work to move the deck continued.
“As an engineer, it’s great to see the design come to fruition,” he said.
“On the design side, we’ve had 25 to 30 people working on this project all together and we have a member of the team onside to assist the contractors, because it’s a unique design and they can help with any issues that come up.
“It’s nice to look on it as an achievement and we hope it is going to be a wonderful project for the region and we are sure it is going to give it some positive vibes.”
The bridge is being built by FVB JV, an international joint venture set up by Farrans Construction and Victor Buyck Steel Construction.
Stephen McCaffrey is project manager for the scheme.
He said: “This is the day we have been talking about for a long time.
“It’s the first time we can start to see the south side meeting up with the north side and see how it might look once the deck is complete, once we have that 40metre section in place.”
The bridge is set to be complete by spring next year.
Mark Jackson, Sunderland City Council’s head of infrastructure and transport, said: “This is another very important milestone for the whole project.
“The fact is we can now see it as a bridge after the pylon was raised.
“It is another visible milestone and essentially, we can see it go from the south to the north, so it’s a very symbolic moment.”
Christopher Glover, 19, from Grangetown, is studying a Btec level three extended diploma in engineering at Sunderland College and will go on to study the subject at Newcastle University.
He first visited the site as part of a work experience project, but his skills were spotted by bosses and he has been asked to return on his days away from his studies as a paid student engineer.
His latest task is to take charge of a monitoring station set up on a mound, which has been checking the deck is following the right course.
Christopher said: “I think this is the biggest change I’ve seen and it’s the cherry on the cake.
“It looks nice and yesterday, there was a Farran’s barge just parked up, then when it moved, it looked different again, so the look keeps changing.”
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