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RS Bridge

Sunderland's new Wear footbridge has taken a major step forward, with the appointment of a leading engineering firm that will carry out the £31m construction project. 

VolkerStevin has been named as the partner that will deliver Sunderland’s stunning ‘smart bridge’, a pedestrian and cyclist crossing that will connect both sides of the Wear at Riverside Sunderland. 

The bridge, which will integrate cutting-edge technology to create engaging interactive experiences for those who cross it, will be constructed by VolkerStevin - a subsidiary of VolkerWessels UK with a turnover of £1bn+ - which specialises in major infrastructure projects. As part of the contract, the company has committed to £2.6m worth of social value commitments delivering a huge boost to people and businesses in the city. 

This includes a community fund to support worthy projects that improve the cultural, heritage, educational, environmental, energy and health opportunities of local residents, as well as a commitment to employ at least 15 local people on the project.  Other headlines include projects to support local people with employability advice and guidance, as well as with schools and young people. 

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We’re delighted to have appointed our delivery partner, VolkerStevin to move forward with this hugely significant infrastructure project that will further connect our city. And what’s more, to have secured a firm that will inject a huge sum into the local economy, as well as adding social value through a range of initiatives, means we’re making every pound we spend count, and the benefit of this project will be felt even during the construction phase of the project. VolkerStevin will also play a significant role in the forthcoming Sunderland Business Festival, which will take place between October 4 and 8. 

“We’re hugely ambitious for Sunderland, and this is the latest in a long line of transformational projects that we’re advancing with at pace at Riverside Sunderland.  Our city centre is transforming with well over £350m worth of development projects progressing, and we’re delighted to see this important project take a significant step forward.”

Planning permission was granted for the bridge in March, after plans were first revealed in 2019. It will connect the transforming former Vaux Brewery site to Sheepfolds, providing improved links to the Stadium of Light, the two University of Sunderland campuses in the city centre and St Peter’s, and residential communities to the north of the river. 

Jonathan Suckling, managing director at VolkerStevin, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded this contract from Sunderland City Council, and are looking forward to working collaboratively with all parties during the ECI period to ensure that Wear Bridge is delivered with certainty.

“We have assembled a great team of designers and supply chain who will help us deliver this significant project and further build on our legacy of delivering major infrastructure schemes, in the North East – which include other iconic bridges such as Gateshead’s Millennium Bridge and Northumbria University’s Intersite Bridge”.

There are two main stages of work to this significant structure, the first involving a detailed rehearsal of the build process.  The work to create the bridge will start in summer 2022 and the bridge is expected to open in summer 2024.  It will feature creative lighting and augmented reality, allowing people to use their smartphone to see virtual displays that council bosses say will create ‘an experience that will really bring to life the city’s digital ambitions’.  

The crossing will provide access to both pedestrians and cyclists creating improved connections between the city centre and the coast.  CGIs for the footbridge show a simple, elegant design that will frame the Wearmouth Bridge and complement the changing cityscape on Riverside Sunderland.

The crossing is part of a raft of development projects in the Riverside Sunderland area that, taken together, aim to double the residential population in the city centre and increase employment by 50 per cent.

To stay up to date with Riverside Sunderland developments, visit www.riversidesunderland.com or follow @RiversideSund on social media.