After £40m worth of investment and seven years hard work, Iain Coucher, chief executive of Network Rail, today officially marked the end of the current engineering works on the High Level Bridge between Newcastle and Gateshead.
Mr Coucher was joined by David Sterry, chief executive at May Gurney, the main contractor on the project; John Shipley, leader of Newcastle City Council; and Mick Henry, leader of Gateshead Council to celebrate the end of the project.
Speaking as a vintage bus became the first "official" vehicle over the bridge since 2005, Mr Coucher said: "The High Level Bridge is a unique structure. Made of cast iron it needed some serious care and attention so that it can continue to serve the communities of Newcastle and Gateshead for many years to come.
"Our engineers have had to develop new techniques to protect the bridge, whilst respecting its Grade 1 Listing and making sure it can still be used. Solutions have included supporting existing beams with new ones which take the load of the roadway and undertaking ground-breaking testing and research into the strength of the cast iron. I'd like to congratulate everyone on a job well done under trying circumstances - and for keeping the trains running throughout."
Councillor Mick Henry, Leader of Gateshead Council, said: "I am delighted to be able to welcome the re-opening of this important link between Gateshead and Newcastle. All of the bridges over the Tyne Gorge serve to tie Gateshead and Newcastle together as one dynamic conurbation, but the High Level is particularly special because of its central location.
"There were times during the last three years when I feared we might never see this day. When work began, it was soon apparent that the condition of the structure was much worse than anyone had expected. I'd therefore like to congratulate Network Rail and their design team and contractors on the completion of an impressive restoration project, in extremely difficult circumstances."
David Sterry, May Gurney’s chief executive, said: “With eight years of complex repairs to the High Level Bridge (HLB) we have demonstrated that cutting-edge research can pay dividends – an extremely cost effective solution involving a very high profile site. This project validates our strategy of focussing on developing long-term relationships with our customers."
John Wilkinson, May Gurney’s managing director project and rail engineering, says “The scheme has been highly complex due to logistical constraints and careful programme management using local expertise has been imperative to its success. It has been a fantastic project to work on and it’s a credit to our team who have been working on the refurbishment since 2001. At the peak of the project we employed upwards of 200 people, while working a 12-day fortnight with both day and night shifts. We are delighted to see it completed”.
Councillor John Shipley, leader of Newcastle City Council, said: "The High Level Bridge is an important part of our heritage. It is important to have it back in use to give priority to passenger transport and to improve journey times for bus passengers."
The official opening was followed by an open day for members of the public. During the afternoon there were information stands and members of the engineering teams at May Gurney and Network Rail available to explain the extent of the work.
Facts and Figures
- More than 1,600 tonnes of scaffold were used in the project.
- At the peak of the project more than 160 engineers and operatives, and 30 managers worked 24 hours a day, 12 days in every 14.
- 75,000 litres of paint have restored the bridge to its original colour
- 610 tonnes of new steel and 252 tonnes of new timber have been used
Further images are available for download at http://www.networkrailmediacentre.co.uk/imagelibrary/default.asp?SubjectID=141
Notes to editors
The road and pedestrian footpaths are scheduled to re-open on Monday 2 June. For safety reasons, the road will only open to buses and taxis travelling from Newcastle to Gateshead. Further information is available from the councils' press offices.
Iain Lynn, Communications Officer, Gateshead Council. 0191 433 2072 or IainLynn@gateshead.gov.uk
Nigel Whitefield, Press Officer, Newcastle City Council. 0191 211 5097 or Nigel.firstname.lastname@example.org
About May Gurney
May Gurney is a dynamic integrated support and construction services company providing maintenance and enhancement services to the highways, rail, utilities and general infrastructure markets, primarily with public sector and regulated sector customers, across the UK. The company focuses on long-term relationships, has 3,850 employees and delivers solutions through two primary business segments - Maintenance Services and Engineering & Project Services.
For further details about May Gurney please go to www.maygurney.co.uk
or contact Naomi Taylor, 01603 727480 or email email@example.com
About Network Rail
Network Rail is the not for dividend owner and operator of Britain's railway infrastructure, which includes the tracks, signals, tunnels, bridges, viaducts, level crossings and stations - the largest of which we also manage. We aim to provide a safe, reliable and efficient rail infrastructure for freight and passenger trains to use. www.networkrailmediacentre.co.uk