Work on Sunderland’s new bridge is continuing at a pace with preparations underway for the installation of the cable stays.
The New Wear Crossing is on track to be complete and open to the public by the spring of 2018, improving the links between the A19 and the city centre.
The next big milestone will be the installation of the 28 cable stays that will hold the bridge deck firmly in place. They are to be installed over the summer by global structural engineering company VSL International.
Each cable stay will be contained inside a white protective plastic tube. The tube will be installed first and then a number of wire strands threaded through to form the stay cables.
Each tube will contain between 45 and 85 individual strands, depending on its position on the deck. Each strand will be the diameter of a penny and will have the capacity to lift seven tonnes – the equivalent of a fully-grown African elephant.
That means that a tube containing the maximum 85 wire strands will have the capacity to lift 595 tonnes - or 50 double decker buses.
Before the cables can be installed, however, the 674 concrete panels on the deck, which will form the basis of the road, must be joined, or stitched, together.
The team is currently pouring concrete into the joins between the panels. This will stitch the precast concrete deck panels together and connect them to the steel deck frame that supports them. Once the stitching on the south side of the deck is complete, the cable installation can begin.
Work is also continuing to assemble the remaining 40m of bridge deck on the north side of the river, which is due to be complete later this summer and will bring the deck to its final span of 330m.
Leader of Sunderland City Council, Coun Paul Watson, said: "The bridge has really come to life this year, with the raising of the pylon and the launching of the bridge deck, and soon the cables will start to be installed too.
"With every milestone, we get a better understanding of just how impressive this bridge will be and the impact it will have on the Sunderland skyline and the economy. Once the cable stays go in, it will look amazing.
“I don’t think we can over-estimate just how important this new bridge is going to be.
“It will link the businesses on the A19 manufacturing corridor to the Port of Sunderland, will improve journey time around the city, reduce congestion and will enable this huge area of land along the riverbank to be redeveloped. That will help to create jobs and open up enormous opportunities. It is the catalyst for change that Sunderland needed.”
Roadworks around the bridge site, on both the north and south sides of the river, are also nearing an end.
Work got underway on the New Wear Crossing in May 2015. Farrans Construction and Victor Buyck Steel Construction, which formed FVB Joint Venture, are delivering the bridge and road improvement scheme on behalf of Sunderland City Council.
Project Director, Stephen McCaffrey, said: "Work is progressing really well, but there is still a lot to do, so we have a very busy summer ahead."