Sunderland and the wider North East region are beginning to feel the benefit of the city’s new bridge across the River Wear.
Since work got underway on the £117m new bridge and road improvement scheme in May 2015, hundreds of local people have worked on the site and a growing number of local businesses awarded work.
The latest figures produced by contractor FVB, a joint venture team between Farrans Construction and Victor Buyck Steel Construction, show that approximately 66% of the contracts to supply materials to the Sunderland site have gone to businesses in the North East, with over 75% of these within a 20-mile radius.
And of more than 700 people who have been inducted to work on the site since last May, more than 450 of them live within 20 miles of the site, which is based next to Pallion Quay.
Amy Wright, 26, from Houghton-le-Spring, Sunderland, is a senior site engineer for Farrans.
She said: “When work got underway on the project I really wanted to be involved so applied for a position with Farrans as soon as I could.
“This is the biggest construction project in the North East, combining a range of complexities, skills and technologies, so it’s great to be involved. It’s a project I can learn from and something I can look back on with pride in years to come.
“The bridge will be an amazing structure for Sunderland. It’s wonderful that so many local people will be involved.”
Work has stepped up a gear in recent weeks on the project, with significant work in the river beginning in preparation for construction of the foundations to support the 105m-tall pylon that will support the road across the bridge.
A consultation is also underway to find a name for the bridge. The first phase of the consultation will agree on a theme for the name, such as Sunderland’s heritage and history, the appearance of the bridge, or its location. Once a theme is agreed, people will then be asked to vote on their favourite name from a shortlist of suggestions.
Stephen McCaffrey, Project Director for FVB joint venture, said: “When we began the project we were very keen to involve the local workforce and business community because this is a landmark structure that the people of Sunderland should be involved in and proud of.
“We are fortunate because the region has a wealth of skilled people and a variety of businesses that we can draw on, and we hope to continue to do so for the next two years.
“We have held three Meet the Buyer events and are constantly on the lookout for reliable, competent and qualified sub-contractors, suppliers and personnel, so if anyone is interested in future opportunities they should get in touch by email.”
The new bridge will cross the River Wear between Wessington Way in Castletown and European Way in Pallion.
It is the first bridge to be built over the Wear in the city for more than 40 years and is part of the wider strategic transport plan to link the Port of Sunderland and city centre to the A19 and the A1.
Councillor Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council, said he was delighted with progress and appealed for people to drive carefully around associated roadworks that are underway close to the bridge site in Pallion and Castletown.
He said: “Work is really beginning to step up on the project now and I’m sure people are as excited as I am about the bridge taking shape in the river.
“As well as helping to bring significant economic benefits to the city, we want this bridge to be a bridge for the people, so I’m glad to hear that local people and businesses are benefiting from it through work and the supply of materials.
“We also want to encourage people to get involved in the naming of the bridge. They can vote on their favourite theme for the name and will then be able to vote on their favourite from a list of suggestions. Every vote is important so we urge people to take part.”