A contract for the bridge and its approach roads has now been signed and the contractor is preparing to officially move on to site.
It is to be a three span cable-stayed bridge with an A-frame pylon rising to 115m (379ft) and it crosses the River Wear between Castletown on the north to Pallion on the south bank.
This pylon is twice as high as Gateshead’s Millennium Bridge and taller than Big Ben. It will have two lanes of traffic in both directions plus dedicated cycleways and footpaths along its full length. This is in line with revised planning permission granted in August 2014.
The completion for all the works is programmed for spring 2018. The overall approved budget for the project is £117.6m, which includes all design, construction, management and land assembly costs.
This comprises City Council funding of £35.079m and Government funding of £82.521m.
Councillor Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “The bridge and its approach roads are going to open up regeneration and development sites along the River Wear and bring more investment into Sunderland.
“As a piece of infrastructure, it is one of the region’s biggest civil engineering projects and an investment that is going to help create more jobs and more economic growth.
“By improving links between the A19, the city centre and the Port of Sunderland, a new bridge has always been a key part of Sunderland’s on-going regeneration.
“This announcement is great news for Sunderland and the wider region. There has been talk for a long, long time that Sunderland has needed a major new road crossing over the River Wear and it’s an issue that has not gone away.
“We have now secured a development that is going to further the regeneration of our city.
“The bridge and its approach roads are about bringing significant economic, regeneration and transport benefits to our city and the wider North East region.
“We cannot overstate the massive economic, social and community impact this project is bringing. It’s going to profit homes, businesses, the Port of Sunderland, help with links to the A19, and the development of the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP)*.
“This is a project of massive significance to everyone in Sunderland and across the North East.”
The construction contract has been awarded to a joint venture between two companies. They are Farrans Construction and Victor Buyck Steel Construction.
Known as FBV JV, the joint-venture was agreed as preferred bidder at a January 2015 meeting of the City Council’s Cabinet.
That Cabinet decision has now been ratified by the Government. The Government agreed last year that it could fund up to £82.5m towards building the bridge and its approach roads as part of the Sunderland and South Tyneside City Deal.
Civil engineering and construction companies were invited to tender when a contract notice for bridge design and construction was published in the EU Official Journal in May last year.
John Wilson, Managing Director, Farrans Construction, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded the contract for the New Wear Crossing along with our JV Partner Victor Buyck.
“We look forward to building on our strong relationship and proactive approach to deliver this landmark structure together in partnership with Sunderland City Council.”
Wim Hoeckman, CEO Victor Buyck Steel Construction, said: “Thanks to our expertise Victor Buyck has developed an innovative and economical construction method that enabled FVB JV to win this contract. Sharing a very similar set of values also created a wonderful chemistry between Victor Buyck and Farrans.”
Farrans Construction operates as a building and civil engineering contractor across the UK and Ireland.
Victor Buyck is one of Europe’s major structural steelwork contractors, specialising in steel bridges and low to high rise office and industrial buildings.
The joint venture brings together the key skills, expertise and capability required for the successful delivery of this project.
FVB JV will be supported by their design team led by Buro Happold Engineering and Roughan & O’Donovan.
Jointly, Mr Wilson and Mr Hoeckman said: “This is a significant landmark project and both companies are looking forward to delivering this scheme in partnership with Sunderland City Council.
“FVB JV looks forward to providing employment opportunities on this project and will be hosting a Meet the Buyer event in the near future.
“This is so it can meet with local suppliers and give all local suppliers the opportunity to meet with us and promote the services that they can offer this project.
“FVB JV aims to deliver a landmark structure that Sunderland can be proud and one that will act as a catalyst for future investment and prosperity for the whole community.”
The contract has more than 500 pages of technical, commercial and financial details. It includes details for Sunderland and regional-based employment and contracting opportunities.
Preliminary works diverting utilities alongside the A1231 Wessington Way have already started.
The bridge is to cross from Wessington Way on the north side of the river to the B1405, European Way/Pallion New Road, on its south side.