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New Wear Crossing scrapped

Sunderland City Council has scrapped plans for its “landmark” New Wear Crossing.

The move comes as little surprise with just two bidders left in the running to build the bridge. It is understood that neither has submitted a tender within the £118M budget.

At its meeting on 17 July, Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet will consider the outcome of the procurement process, with conclusion likely to be that the landmark design is unaffordable in its current form.

In February NCE confirmed that Ferrovial and Balfour Beatty had pulled their bids for the complex cable-stayed crossing, leaving just Northern Ireland-based Graham and Vinci of France bidding to build the 336m long bridge between Castletown and Pallion.

It is understood that both ditched their bids because the project was becoming too complicated and risky to build. Bridge experts had previously warned that contractors would struggle to construct the bridge.

Sunderland City Council today said it remained committed to delivering a new bridge across the River Wear and, with Cabinet’s permission, work will begin immediately to develop and procure a more simplified form of cable-stayed design, that can be delivered with existing funding, within the agreed timeframe and sit in the same footprint as the initial scheme.

It said that since the landmark design was first suggested, the economic climate has changed significantly and that delivering a new bridge within the agreed timeframe was the priority now and that this simplified design is the smart and achievable solution.

The bridge is intended to reduce traffic congestion and connect major development sites which in turn could generate new investment and jobs.

The new bridge is the centre-piece of the multi-million pound Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor (SSTC) and crosses the River Wear from Castletown on the north side to Pallion on the south side. The bridge will connect the A1231 (Wessington Way) with European Way in Pallion.

The SSTC programme, of which the new bridge is an integral part, is a new link from the A19 to the Port of Sunderland. It is designed to improve access to key employment sites, enhance their development potential and also to relieve general congestion on our existing bridges.

A strategic investment decision was taken at the City Council’s cabinet on 9 September 2009 to give the go-ahead to the New Wear Crossing, which would require up to £133M of both local and national funding.

Since this decision the project has now completed the detailed design with detailed planning permission, and significant cost savings have been identified. The full extent was set out in the City Council’s best and final bid offer to the Department for Transport in the autumn of 2011. It set a price of £118M.

The bid was successful and in December 2011, the Department for Transport confirmed it would contribute £82.5M funding.

Bridge facts

  • The bridge is designed by North East architect Stephen Spence in association with structural engineer Techniker
  • It will be the tallest bridge in England and Wales, with the highest tower measuring 187m
  • The length of the bridge deck is 336m
  • The width of the bridge deck is 30m
  • The bridge will carry four lanes of traffic - two in each direction - and have dedicated pedestrian and cycle ways
  • The construction timetable is 2012 - 2015
  • The new bridge and roads total 3.2km in length

Readers' comments (2)

  • So it has taken the council over three years to agree with the comment I made back in April 2010 which has since been echoed many times. A sensible design at that time could have been well into construction by now!

    Who is going to hold up their hands and accept responsibility for wasting our money and who is going to recompense the industry for wasting their time & effort on this fantasy? Answer to both, will, of course, be nobody!

    I sincerely hope that clients spending our hard earned money learn from this fiasco.

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  • I'm glad to see that some common sense has prevailed. However, I wonder what will they come up with next.

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