New bridge making good progress – with help from local workers

Wear crossing

The steel frame of the first section of bridge deck is almost complete.

Work on Sunderland’s new bridge across the River Wear is making good progress with activity on site now at its peak.

The cofferdam in the centre of the river, where the foundations to the bridge’s main A-frame pylon are being built, has been filled with almost 1500 cubic metres of concrete this week, and the steel frame of the first section of bridge deck is almost complete.

More than 100 people are now working on site, with both locals and international specialists working together to deliver the new bridge on time, by the spring of 2018.

Among the workforce is a team of ten local welders who have been employed by main contractor Victor Buyck Steel Construction with the task of welding the fabricated steel sections of the bridge deck together.

Working from within welding tents fixed to the length of the deck, they will be employed on site until the new year until both phases of bridge deck are built and launched across the river.

Local scaffolders and engineers are also working on the site, along with construction operatives and administration staff, who are based at the main site office in Pallion.

Welder Garry Robson, 40, from Hebburn, said: “It’s a great project to work on. When I tell people where I’m working, they are really interested.

“In years to come, I will be able to say that I helped to build this bridge. It’s going to look impressive when it’s finished.”

And welder Ray Martin, 56, from Jarrow, said: “I had just finished a contract and was looking for another job when I got the call, so it came along at just the right time.

“I have worked on smaller bridges before, but nothing like this. I will definitely be driving over this bridge when it’s finished.”

A critical milestone was achieved on Monday this week when the cofferdam, which is secured deep within the riverbed and where the 105m-high centrepiece of the bridge will be fixed, was filled with concrete to form the pile cap and foundation for the pylon.

More than 200 loads of concrete were poured into the cofferdam during a 26-hour continuous operation that started late on Sunday night and finished early on Tuesday morning.

The concrete was supplied by the Sunderland and Gateshead plants of Tarmac, which has been one of the main suppliers to the project since work got underway in May of 2015.

Fifteen lorries were used to continuously transport concrete from Tarmac’s plants to site.

Stephen McCaffrey, Project Director for FVB joint venture, created by Farrans Construction and Victor Buyck Steel Construction to deliver the contract on behalf of Sunderland City Council, said: “We are in an extremely busy period, with work in the cofferdam having achieved another key milestone, the first section of bridge deck well underway, and improvements to the road network around the site progressing very well.

“The concrete pour was a major task because it had to be completed at a pace and without interruption over a prolonged period, meaning we had a continuous flow of concrete mixers coming to site both day and night. We worked closely with Tarmac to ensure the operation ran smoothly and was a success.

“People will be able to see a lot of activity in the coming months. It’s certainly a complex programme of work, but we have an excellent team of specialists who are bringing everything together very well.”

Commenting on the success of the operation, Jon Merchant, Production Manager for Tarmac Readymix concrete for Tyne and Wear, said: “A collaborative attitude and flexible approach to service was critical in achieving the volume and consistency required over a 26-hour pour.

“Bringing in the right people and creating a team focused on delivering results for our customers was essential to the project in achieving this critical milestone.”

Leader of Sunderland City Council Cllr Paul Watson said: “The people of Sunderland have waited a long time for this, so it’s wonderful to finally see the bridge unfolding and our ambitions become a reality.

“The new crossing is going to attract investment into Sunderland, help to regenerate key areas along the river, and inject a great sense of pride into the community. There are no doubts in my mind that it will have a profound impact on the future of this great city.”

The new bridge will cross the River Wear between Wessington Way in Castletown and European Way in Pallion.

It is the first bridge to be built over the Wear in Sunderland for more than 40 years and is part of the wider strategic transport plan to link the Port of Sunderland and city centre with the A19.

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