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Aecom to rule on five bridge options in Wales

Britannia bridge train crossing 3

The Welsh Government is now considering a unique proposal for a third bridge over the Menai Strait in Wales featuring a giant statue of an ancient welsh king, but the project is still in consultation with consultants Aecom and Knights with other options to consider.  

In a bid to overcome bottlenecking on the A55, the Welsh Government has commissioned a new bridge over the Menai Strait to go alongside the existing Stephenson Britannia Bridge and Telford Suspension Bridge Bridges.  

Welsh engineer Benji Poulton, after being ‘underwhelmed’ with the proposed designs, saw fit to submit his own he calls ‘Pont Bendigeidfran’.  

The unique idea features a giant statue of the ancient Welsh king Bendigeidfran.  

The Welsh Government recently announced that Poulton’s concept design would be considered alongside more conventional designs, following a positive response to the concept and a petition made online.  

It is now up to project consultants Aecom and Knights to decide what shape the project will take, and while the novel Bendigeidfran design was well liked by the public, more conventional designs remain on the planning table.  

The public consultation for the project has now ended, and the route of the new bridge has been selected as the ‘purple route’ which can be seen below. 

The new bridge will run alongside, but not parrellel with, the Britiannia Bridge, which was built in 1850 by Robert Stephenson. This will ”significantly affect views of the Listed Britannia Bridge from one or both sides” according to the document. 

wales map 2

Source: Llywodraeth Cymru / Welsh Government

The new Menai bridge will run alongside the existing Britannia Bridge, via the ‘Purple Route’

The bridge types considered have included post-tensioned concrete bridges, extrados bridges, cable-stayed bridges, steel truss bridges, tied-arch bridges and thrust-arch bridges.  

The consultation document said that “the bridges considered aim to minimise the aesthetic conflicts with the existing historic bridges”.

The selection of designs included in the document has also considered “initial and ‘whole-life’ costs, constructability, maintenance, their ability to carry power cables or services”.

Source: Llywodraeth Cymru / Welsh Government

Four designs were included in the consultation document released to the public earlier in the year, including a cantilever bridge, one and two span bridges, and a cable stayed bridge.

The ‘Pont Bendigeidfran’ design would take the balanced cantilever bridge, and either install the state of the giant as a façade around the central support, or replace it entirely by being constructed from structural concrete.

Writing in Nation.Cymru, Benjiman Angwin described the design as ”ingenious, structurally sound and aesthetically beautiful.”

Pont bendigeidfran

Source: Pont Bendigeidfran / Benji Poulton

Pont bendigeidfran - a balance cantilever bridge with the central support replaced with the state of Bendigeidfran

Several options were also presented for the bridge deck, which will be used as an extension of the A55.  

Options considered including moving pedestrian traffic to the existing Britannia bridge and vehicular traffic to the new bridge, with extra lanes to reduce bottlenecking, an issue with the current bridges. 

Source: Llywodraeth Cymru / Welsh Government

Options for the bridge deck include moving foot traffic to the Britannia Bridge

Also under consideration in the plans is the surrounding area.

On the north side is an area of outstanding natural beauty, aswell as a schdeuled ancinet monument sites. 

To the south lie areas of special tree conservation and sites of special scientific interest. 

Strategic footpaths such as the Llŷn and Isle of Anglesey Coast Paths, and National Cycle Routes also needed to be considered in the placement of the new bridge. 

wales map

Source: Llywodraeth Cymru / Welsh Government

Areas of outstanding natural beauty to the north, and special scientific interest to the south complicate the design process.

The minister for economy and transport Ken Skates said that it would be among plans considered by the designers. 

“Consultants Aecom and Knight Architects are currently assessing and developing concepts of bridge designs which best fit within the Menai bridge landscape and consultations on these options with the Design Commissioner for Wales is ongoing,” Skates said. 

“The appropriateness of incorporating sculptures into bridges, such as Mr. Poulton’s Pont Bendigeidfran, forms part of this assessment.” 

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