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Biggest lift since the 'Eye'

Lift in progress 1

The largest lift since the London Eye’s erection in 1999 has taken place in Sunderland.

Pylon raised 7

Pylon raised 7

The pylon in its final position.

The 100m tall, 1,500t A-frame structure, which is the focal point of the New Wear Crossing, was raised to its final position on Saturday afternon.

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

In all, the lift took 15 and a half hours – split over two days.

Nothing of this scale has been raised in this way since the London Eye was erected in 1999 – the pylon weighs the equivalent of 125 double decker buses.

Standing at twice the height of Nelson’s Column and bigger than Big Ben’s clock tower, the pylon will be visible from some considerable distance on both sides of the river, as well as from the A19.

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

“Lifting the pylon was definitely the most challenging part of this whole project,” said Van Severen.

“The sheer size and weight of the structure, as well as its shape, meant that getting it here on site, attached to the foundations and then raised into position took a lot of preparation and precision from a large team of people…

Lift in progress 2

Lift in progress 2

The lift went on into the night.

“We had allowed the whole weekend for the raising operation, but we completed in less than 16 hours over two days, so we are very happy.

“Now our focus turns to the next phases of work. We will be launching the bridge deck out across the river in spring and will start connecting the cable stays in the summer. After that, people will really see the bridge come to life.”

FVB project director Stephen McCaffrey said offsite fabrication played a key role.

“We have been working towards this day since we broke ground 19 months ago,” he said.

“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.

Pylon raised 5

Pylon raised 5

Each leg of the structure is a 3m by 5m cross section hollow steel tube.

“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.”

Sunderland City councillor Paul Watson 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 Wilson.

The new bridge will link Castletown to the north of the River Wear with Pallion to the south, linking the city centre and Port of Sunderland from the A19 and A1. The project is on time for a spring 2018 opening.


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