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Here we go... Iconic arch slowly slots into position.

Byline: By MIKE BLACKBURN

TEESSIDE has a striking new landmark - and one to be proud of!

The second arch of the elegant pounds 15m North Shore footbridge in Stockton was successfully lifted into place yesterday.

The slow, but highly delicate, engineering operation took around four hours - mostly in pouring rain - using the UK's largest mobile crane.

But by 12.30pm the 290-tonne arch, built from Corus steel, was in place alongside its smaller sister arch which was lifted earlier this summer - and the Teesside skyline was dramatically transformed.

Neil Barnes, regional managing director of Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering, the contractors building the bridge, said the operation had gone "very well".

"We knew it was going to be a delicate and accurate operation and it was always our intention to take it slow," he said.

"We had no real problems with the rain, which wasn't heavy enough to affect the lift."

Mr Barnes said the site team involved in the construction, most of whom live within a 15-mile radius of the new landmark, had done a "fantastic job".

He believes the new bridge is "something for the people of Stockton and the Tees Valley to be proud of".

He said: "The design of this bridge is unique. There isn't another similar structure anywhere in the world.

"It is exciting to see it going together and see it going together well and to plan."

The iconic bridge spans 180 metres and, at its highest point, is 40 metres above the Tees.

The footbridge will be the key pedestrian and cycle link between Tees Valley Regeneration's North Shore development and both Teesdale Business Park and Durham University's Queen's Campus, and is expected to be used by 4,000 people a day.

The bridge, the name of which will be revealed later this month, is being built by contractors Balfour Beatty and sub-contractors Cleveland Bridge and Dorman Long, in partnership with Stockton Council.

WATCHING BRIEF: People lined the river to watch, including, from left above, Paul Jackson, Alistair Howarth, Cllr Bob Cook, Joe Docherty and Neil Barnes, as the lifting began, below The two humpbacked arches will now be welded together over the next couple of weeks, allowing work to continue on the footbridge decking and landing points.

Mike Robinson, head of technical services at Stockton Council, said the decking and structure are due to be finished by the end of the year, with other remedial world around the bridge complete by spring when it is due to open.

The new bridge instantly met with the approval of locals, including Gary Bell, from Thornaby, who was walking his pet Alsatian Simba along the riverside.

Mr Bell, himself a general foreman for another bridge building firm, Volker Stevin, said: "I think this bridge is fantastic for the area. Our company has put a lot of bridges up, and I've never seen anything like this. It is unique."

The footbridge is funded by Stockton Council, One NorthEast, English Partnerships and money attracted to the area from the European Regional Development Fund.

The pounds 320m North Shore development, led by Tees Valley Regeneration in partnership with national regeneration agency English Partnerships and Stockton Council, will transform land along Stockton's riverside with housing, cafes, bars, restaurants and leisure facilities, and create more than 2,500 jobs.

CAPTION(S):

WATCHING BRIEF: People lined the river to watch, including, from left above, Paul Jackson, Alistair Howarth, Cllr Bob Cook, Joe Docherty and Neil Barnes, as the lifting began, below; EASY DOES IT: The final stages of the link are gradually put in place Pictures by IAN McINTYRE
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Sep 6, 2008
Words:597
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