Sunderland’s new bridge site is deemed ‘exceptional’ by experts

Wear CrossingThe site of Sunderland’s New Wear Crossing has been ranked as ‘exceptional’ following a visit by construction inspectors.

The Considerate Constructors Scheme, which aims to improve the image of the construction industry and promote best practice, has marked the project an impressive 45 marks out of a possible 50 – the rolling 12-month industry average score is 35.6.

The construction site of the new bridge, including office and welfare areas, were inspected before the project team gave a presentation on what it was doing to raise standards, communicate and engage with the people of Sunderland and ensure health and safety guidelines were met.

The project scored nine out of ten in each of the five areas covered, which were:
• Care about appearance
• Respect the community
• Protect the environment
• Secure everyone’s safety
• Value their workforce

Construction sites, companies and suppliers voluntarily register with the Scheme and agree to abide by the Code of Considerate Practice, designed to encourage best practice beyond statutory requirements.

The Scheme is concerned about any area of construction activity that may have a direct or indirect impact on the image of the industry. The main areas of concern fall into three categories: the general public, workforce and the environment.

The monitor said the New Wear Crossing site was “extremely clean, tidy and well organised” and that there were “robust environmental systems and procedures in place.”

He said: “The 100m high A-frame pylon looks impressive and sets the scene for the rest of the site.

“The procedures in place for keeping people informed are exceptional. Safety is given high priority and is supported by the inspection regime, training and consultations, all of which ensure the highest levels of safety performance.

“There is a long list of initiatives, including work placements, apprentices, teacher insight visits, careers in construction presentations and employability workshops – all of which demonstrate the exceptional lengths the site is going to to encourage new people into the industry.”

Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Paul Watson, said he was delighted with the results and said the team effort, and partnership approach on site, was behind the success.

Farrans Construction and Victor Buyck Steel Construction, which formed FVB Joint Venture to deliver the project on behalf of Sunderland City Council, are working on site alongside a team from Atkins, which was brought in by the local authority to supervise the project on its behalf.

Cllr Watson said: “The results of this inspection are excellent, but having been to site on a number of occasions, I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

“The project teams are working hard to make sure that Sunderland’s new bridge is just as impressive as we intended it to be, and that the best interests of the city are met. The community engagement programmes are excellent.

“I’ve not only been impressed with the progress on site, but the standards achieved too. We are two thirds of the way through and the project is running to time and budget, and we have experienced no major accidents. All of the major milestones have been successfully completed without any problems. When you look at the size of the project, that is a considerable feat.”

Work began on the New Wear Crossing in May 2015. It is phase two of the Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor, which is a five-phase plan to improve links between the A19 and Sunderland City Centre and the Port of Sunderland.

When it opens in spring of next year, linking Pallion to the south of the river with Castletown to the north, it will enable land along the south bank of the river to be developed, helping to create up to 6,000 jobs, and will also reduce congestion in the city and improve journey times.

Stephen McCaffrey, Project Director for FVB, said: “The construction of the New Wear Crossing is the largest project in the North East and it is important to FVB and the delivery team that we are at the forefront of adopting and promoting best practices.

“We have built and improved on current practices and have adopted new initiatives in all five areas assessed by the Considerate Constructors Scheme.

“We understand that construction activities can cause disruption and we are ever conscious of the need to minimise this, be good neighbours and to look after the environment. We value our workforce and work hard to ensure their safety and welfare at all times.

“We’re very happy with the monitor’s comments and score, but it’s important to recognise the input of all involved. This has been achieved through the hard work and effort of everyone involved, particularly our community engagement teams.”

Jim Kilcar, Bridge Supervisor for Atkins, said: “A project of this size and complexity requires a lot of planning and detail, and throws up regular challenges, but the whole team is determined to not only deliver this new bridge on time, on budget and to a first class standard, but we also want to deliver best practice, be good neighbours and continue to improve and out-perform.

“Some of the initiatives on site, such as the work experience programme with Sunderland College, the employability workshops and teacher insight visits, offer something meaningful to people and will hopefully have a lasting legacy for Sunderland and its people.

“We believe the New Wear Crossing is more than just a bridge construction project – it is about what this bridge can do for Sunderland. It’s great to have the project recognised for exceptional work in achieving this goal.”

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