A 100m pylon, which will form the centrepiece of Sunderland's new bridge, has arrived at its final location in the middle of the River Wear.
The striking white structure left Greenwells Quay at the Port of Sunderland at around 5am on Thursday, arriving some two hours later on a barge.
The project team had carefully planned the transportation to coincide with the right tidal and weather conditions, which meant it had to be carried out during the early hours.
It’s great to see the pylon now in its final location on the River Wear. A lot of hard work and planning has gone into building the pylon, and getting it to site, and I think we can now begin to imagine just how impressive it will look when it’s raised into position. I appreciate that some people may be disappointed that they were unable to watch it being transported up the river, but given that it would have meant people congregating during the early hours in the dark, along the riverbank, the team took the decision not to publicise it in the interest of reducing health and safety risks to the public. That was the right decision and was something that could not be avoided. The operation to raise the pylon will be a long process, but much of it will be carried out in daylight hours, so people will definitely have an opportunity to come out and watch then."
In the coming days, and through a number of stages, the pylon will be rotated 90 degrees in the river and final engineering works carried out to connect the legs of the pylon with the giant concrete tusks that are fixed into the riverbed inside the cofferdam, which will support the A-frame in its final position.
It is expected to take about 24 hours for the pylon to be raised into place, and several weeks to then secure it to the tusks and foundations.
The transportation, and subsequent raising of the pylon, is being carried out by Sarens, a world leader in heavy lifting and engineered transport.
The new bridge will link Castletown to the north of the River Wear with Pallion to the south, and will have dual two-lane carriageways for vehicles, as well as dedicated cycle and pedestrian routes.
It is on track to open in the spring of 2018, and will help attract investment into Sunderland, create new jobs and regenerate land along the River Wear.
It will enhance public transport, as well as significantly improve the important transport links to the city centre and Port of Sunderland from the A19 and A1.