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New Wear Bridge hit by further delays

Tender deadlines for the complex £118M New Wear bridge in Sunderland have put back by another month, NCE learnt this week.

Contractors bidding for the 336m long, cable stayed crossing were originally expected to submit their bids by 20 March this year, according to construction industry analyst Glenigan.

This was delayed until 24 April, as NCE revealed last month, but now the deadline for bids has been pushed back again.

“The tender return date is 22 May, as we’re in the procurement process we cannot discuss the project in detail,” said a spokesman for client Sunderland City Council.

Just two of the original four bidders remain in the competition after Balfour Beatty and Ferrovial pulled out earlier this year.

Competition for the contract award is now being contested by contractors Vinci and Graham Construction.

The scheme has long attracted controversy and independent bridge engineer Simon Bourne has told NCE that he has written to transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin urging him to drop the scheme.

The Department for Transport is funding £82.6M of the total £118M cost, but Bourne thinks this should be withdrawn before any contracts are awarded.

“So, at this last opportunity, I would urge your department to reconsider their support to this scheme before it is too late,” says Bourne’s letter.

He said high quality alternative bridge designs would cost £40M less than what is being proposed in Sunderland.

The letter goes on to say that the bridge will cost three times as much as it should because of a “woeful lack of structural integrity”.

He also said Sunderland City Council had “doggedly” taken forward the unusual cable-stayed bridge even though it had been designed by a team with “virtually no major bridge experience, which surely falls foul of all good procurement practices”.

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