Sunderland City Council has abandoned Techniker and Stephen Spence’s competition-winning New Wear Crossing in favour of a cheaper and easier to build alternative
The council has walked away from the high-profile project after two contractors competing for the job – Graham and Vinci – failed to submit a tender within the £118 million budget.
The decision comes after earlier competitors Ferrovial and Balfour Beatty pulled out of the bidding in February with bridge experts’ warned the structure would be difficult to build.
Explaining the decision, Sunderland City Council argued the economic climate had changed since the original design was procured and the new priority was to deliver a bridge within the agreed timeframe which requires a start on site before 2015.
The local authority is now set to procure a simpler alternative design for a cable-stayed crossing, expected to be delivered through a design and build contract, which can sit within the previous scheme’s footprint and be delivered with the existing budget.
The new bridge will transport two lanes of traffic in both directions and have dedicated cycleways and footpaths along its full length. The city council is expected to formally back the decision on 17 July.
In a statement, City council leader Coun Paul Watson said: ‘While it is initially disappointing to learn the unique design cannot be built within the budget, we must now move forward positively towards our vision for a new bridge.
‘The simplified design for the bridge will continue to embrace modern and tasteful design qualities, whilst maximising tested engineering technology and construction techniques. The fact that it is of cable-stayed design means that by its nature it will have a striking quality to it.’
He continued: ‘What is most important is that we deliver a new crossing over the Wear. I have no doubt that the project team will quickly rise to this fresh challenge and I hope the city will embrace the new design once we are in a position to release further details.’
However architect Stephen Spence told the Shields Gazette: ‘There will still be a bridge – it just won’t be mine.
‘The team behind the plan had done everything possible to make it a reality on budget, but had perhaps gone into too much detail.
All we have been told is it was substantially over-budget
‘We have not seen the tenders. All we have been told is it was substantially over-budget.
‘Bridges such as this last 120 years – they are for the generations. We have always said this was a confident, forward-looking bridge, something that would put Sunderland on the map.”
‘I know all the arguments, I know about the economy, but this was the opportunity to actually get it built and then, in 10 years’ time, people probably would have said “This is something we are proud of”.’
The proposed crossing over the River Wear between Castletown and Pallion would have been the tallest bridge in England and Wales, with the highest tower measuring 187 metres.