Sunderland’s epic New Wear Crossing takes shape

13 February 2017
The majestic centrepiece of Sunderland’s new bridge has taken its final position over the River Wear. Ramboll is delighted to have been involved in the project to create this new iconic crossing, and the successful transportation and lifting into place of the pylon.
New Wear Crossing - pylon lift in progress. Image by Mark Savage, courtesy of Sunderland City Council

New Wear Crossing - pylon lift in progress. Image by Mark Savage, courtesy of Sunderland City Council


John Armitage. Ramboll

John Armitage

Technical Director, Bridges
M: +44 7946 484 652
Lucy Chadwick. Ramboll

Lucy Chadwick

Head of Department, UK
T: +44 7870 810 056

Ramboll carried out the role of Independent Cat 3 Checker over the last two years for this major new structure, providing bridge and geotechnical engineering services.

On Saturday 10 February 2017, the 100m white A-frame structure, which will be the focal point of the New Wear Crossing, was raised to its 90-degree resting place. It took 15-and-a-half hours – split over two days – to complete the lift, which saw the 1550-tonne pylon gradually raised into place during a slow and challenging operation.

Weighing the equivalent of 125 double decker buses, nothing of this scale has been raised in this way since the London Eye was erected in 1999.

The operation was the culmination of two years of design and planning, and 12 months of fabricating the pylon for Farrans Construction and Victor Buyck Steel Construction, which formed FVB joint venture to deliver the project on behalf of Sunderland City Council.

Cllr Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council, said finally seeing the pylon in place was a huge moment for him personally and the people of the city. “You can use your imagination, and you can look at countless photographs and impressions, but nothing can really prepare you for what the centrepiece looks like over the river,” said Cllr Wilson.

Standing at twice the height of Nelson’s Column and bigger than Big Ben’s clock tower, the centrepiece will be visible from some considerable distance on both sides of the river, as well as from the A19. The new bridge will link Castletown to the north of the River Wear with Pallion to the south, and 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.

However, the new bridge will bring wider benefits than improvements to the road network by attracting investment to the region. “For a long time, a huge swathe of land along the south bank of the river was in need of regeneration and this bridge is enabling us to do that,” added Cllr Watson.

Stephen McCaffrey, Project Director for FVB Joint Venture, said the raising operation had gone very smoothly. He said: “It’s a great day for everyone working on the project – we have been working towards this day since we broke ground 19 months ago. We could have built the pylon on site, from the ground up, but we chose to fabricate it in one go, off site, in a factory environment because we had better control over conditions, got a better quality of finish, and could avoid having people working at height. The transportation of the pylon from the fabrication yard in Belgium and the raising on site have been challenging, but we planned well and the result was a successful operation.”

Patrick Van Severen, Project Director for Victor Buyck Steel Construction, said a massive milestone had been reached in the project, but there was still a lot of work ahead.

Watch footage of the first day’s raising operation below.

The New Wear Crossing is one of three major estuary crossing projects currently under construction in the UK with Ramboll involvement. The others are The Queensferry Crossing and The Mersey Gateway.

Further information

The 105m central pylon of Northern Spire bridge. Image: Sunderland City Council

The Northern Spire Bridge - new Wear crossing

With its gleaming white A-frame focal point, the iconic Northern Spire cable stay bridge improves critical transport capacity, allows for expansion of the Port and provides access to key development sites along the river. Ramboll was appointed to carry out Category 3 checking of the permanent works.


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