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Going over and above

New roads and bridges are vital for the success of the Games and their legacy.

Over 30 bridges and 20km of new road are being built on the Olympic Park to connect 2.5km2 of land that until now has been split apart by railways and waterways. And the investment in infrastructure is vital for the Games and for regenerating this part of East London.

“The structures, bridges and highways project will be the key to joining the various parts of the Olympic Park jigsaw together,” says ODA director of infrastructure and utilities Simon Wright. “They are creating new connections across the Park and new links between local communities.

“Right across the Park we are planning for legacy from the very beginning,” he continues “and this infrastructure will help us create the backbone of the Olympic Park in legacy and a platform for future development.”

Masterplanner for the Park is a team that includes EDAW and engineer Buro Happold. Detailed design for the structures bridges and highways is being carried out by Atkins in the north and Arup in the south of the Park. Contractors signed up so far are Skanska, Nuttall and Balfour Beatty.

The design of the bridges and roads must allow for seamless transportation of thousands of spectators during the Games and be adaptable for permanent, lighter loads after the Games or completely removable post 2012, explains Buro Happold’s infrastructure and environment director Andrew Comer. And the thinking that has gone into planning where this infrastructure goes has been inextricably linked with the reclamation of the whole Park.

“Across the site, because of the need to improve the ground conditions, quite significant changes to the infrastructure have had to be made,” he says. ”It’s like a bowl of spaghetti, if you change one thing several others will be affected.

“The overriding principle of all this is the need to make sure that everything is robust. And to remember that contractors like to go from planning in to the design and construction phase as quickly as possible, so in planning we incorporate some elements of the detailed design.

“You need to get this right, from the start. You don’t get a second chance to go back and change things.”

The majority of bridges are being designed as permanent fixtures, although some will have temporary elements added to widen them in anticipation of extra traffic during the Games. For the bridges with this temporary and permanent requirement, the permanent element only makes up 20 to 30% of the structure, says Atkins project manager Steve Cardwell.

For resilience and robustness most of the bridges are conventional box structures, he says. But with the totally temporary bridges the designers can give full play to their imagination. One set of bridges are being designed to provide extra capacity in case they are suddenly needed in an emergency. At the moment though the team is busy getting on with the structures that are needed to speed construction of the Park. “The main driver at the moment is getting sections of the loop road open to facilitate construction work,” Cardwell says.


The showpiece bridge on the Park is the 26m span footbridge over the river Lea at the focal point between the Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Centre and Basketball Arena. Competition to design the structure was won by engineer Adams Kara Taylor and Heneghan Peng Architects. During the Games the bridge will have a total width of 55m to accommodate spectator numbers. After the Games temporary sections of the bridge will be removed leaving two narrower bridges that span either side of Carpenters Lock on the river Lea.

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