The 100m centrepiece of Sunderland’s new bridge – which weighs the equivalent of 125 double decker busses – has been partially raised into position today (Friday). The operation to begin lifting the striking white A-frame structure, which will form the focal point of the New Wear Crossing, began at about 8am (Friday) and quickly made progress. By 1pm, the pylon had been raised by about 35 degrees and by 4pm it was more than half way through the raising operation. It was the first time anything of this size had been raised in this way since the London Eye was lifted in 1999, and the first day’s operation went smoothly and ahead as planned.
Specialists working on the new river crossing had spent two years planning the raising, and had spent the last three weeks getting the impressive white structure prepared and connected to the rigging. A combination of four strand jacks that were anchored 30m into the ground, a crane boom known as the backmast, and a series of steel cables were used to slowly inch the pylon up. The raising process is only being carried out in daylight hours, so the operation will be paused overnight, and is expected to be completed sometime tomorrow.
Stephen McCaffrey, Project Director for Farrans Victor Buyck Joint Venture (FVB), which is delivering the project on behalf of Sunderland City Council, said the operation was going extremely well, he said:
“The lifting process is going as we planned and expected. We are making very good progress and expect the pylon to be in its final 90-degree position during the weekend.
There has been a lot to do to prepare the pylon for the lift. When it arrived on site we had to release the sea fastenings and then begin the process of connecting the pylon to the tusks that have been built to support it in the riverbed foundations. We have also had to prepare and rig the lifting equipment, which has involved manoeuvring some huge pieces of equipment around the site.
Quite often, structures like this are built in situ from the ground up, but we made the decision to fabricate the pylon off site, in one go, in a factory environment, which enabled us to better control conditions, get a better quality of finish, and avoid the need for people to work at a height. Doing it this way means that we needed to transport the pylon from Belgium and then lift it into place, which has been challenging, but the result is this great civil engineering spectacle here today.”
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, as well as from the A19.
Councillor Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council, said the raising operation was a sight to behold.
He said: “I think this is the moment we have all been waiting for, when we see this impressive structure raised up over the River Wear.
“Our new bridge is really taking shape now. We can get a real impression of how the bridge is going to look once it’s complete.
“The New Wear Crossing will help improve traffic flow across the city from the A19 through to the city centre and the Port of Sunderland and create huge opportunities for regeneration and investment along the river bank, so it’s wonderful to see it progressing so well.”
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.
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.
People are 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.
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