The final link in a three-year programme to rebuild Workington's bridges damaged or destroyed in the floods of 2009 has been completed after the Royal opening of Northside Bridge.
Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal opened the 152-metre three-span structure by unveiling a plaque in front of enthusiastic local people at the north end and then cutting a ribbon to be the first to cross the new bridge in her car.
She was joined in being the first to cross the bridge by the Lord-Lieutenant of Cumbria Sir James Cropper, a small group of cyclists, and a group of pupils from the adjacent Northside Primary School travelling in a vintage bus built back in 1979 in the nearby Leyland factory.
Also in attendance at the opening event were the High Sheriff of Cumbria, the Chairman and Chief Executive of Cumbria County Council along with other county councillors, the Mayor and Mayoresses of both Allerdale and Workington, the chief executive of Allerdale Borough Council and Sir Tony Cunningham MP.
Prior to unveiling the plaque, Her Royal Highness met Hazel Barker and her four children at the southern side of the bridge next to a memorial to her late husband PC Bill Barker which has been built into the bridge's footway. The memorial is a simple stone replica of PC Barker's police badge positioned at the site where he tragically lost his life on the old bridge on 20 November 2009.
During the event Her Royal Highness also met members of the bridge construction team, a number of local people whose homes had been flooded in 2009, and local school children.
The opening of Northside Bridge marks the completion of Cumbria County Council's flood recovery programme in Workington which has seen five bridges built or rebuilt across the River Derwent in the town (see notes for editors).
Northside Bridge was the largest single project in the entire flood recovery programme, a £ 11.2m project funded by the Department for Transport and delivered for Cumbria County Council by the main contractor Birse Civils, with design and contract management work by Capita Symonds.
Construction started in August 2011. The bridge's concrete piers are clad in recovered sandstone from the original Northside Bridge destroyed in the floods of November 2009. It has been built on a similar alignment to that of the previous Northside Bridge, but is wider to improve access for pedestrians and cyclists.
Cllr Tony Markley, Cumbria County Council's Cabinet member responsible for highways, said: "We're all very proud to see Northside Bridge open and proud of the whole flood recovery effort over the last three years. Workington now has a new road bridge to be proud of and we can finally say 'we've done it'. I'm delighted that local people had a chance to be involved in the Royal opening, as they were involved in shaping the design of the bridge in the first place. Today's events were tinged with a note of sadness at the memory of PC Bill Barker, but his family were incredibly brave to attend and they can be very proud of the lasting legacy to Bill which is in the bridge."
Local Transport Minster Norman Baker MP said: "The opening of this new bridge is an important occasion for the people of Workington but first and foremost I would like to pay tribute to PC Bill Barker who tragically lost his life when the old bridge collapsed during the floods of November 2009. "Since then there has been a tremendous amount of work done by everyone involved to make sure Cumbria's transport infrastructure has been replaced and I am delighted the Department has been able to do its bit by contributing more than £ 11m to this scheme."The new bridge will not only bring long-term benefits for all those travelling in the area but is another step in restoring the infrastructure for the town and improving transport links across the county."
Murray Easton, Managing Director of Balfour Beatty Regional Civil Engineering, said: "Birse Civils was delighted to be given the privilege of working with Cumbria County Council and the people of Workington to construct the replacement bridge, which is a vital piece of infrastructure and very close to the heart of the community. This magnificent new bridge, which once again connects the community and the surrounding areas, truly demonstrates what commitment, co-operation and teamwork can achieve. I would like to thank everyone involved and, in particular, the residents and local businesses directly affected by the works for their patience and understanding during the past 15 months."
Now that the new bridge is open to traffic, the nearby temporary road bridge has been closed and will be removed by Morgan Sindall, the contractor which originally installed it. Birse Civils will be carrying out some completion and finishing works around the site of the new Northside bridge over the next month, but it will remain open to traffic.
Further background information on the new bridge:
The five bridges built or rebuilt across the River Derwent in Workington are:
Barker Crossing: the emergency footbridge installed by the army just 18 days after the floods.
The temporary road bridge opened in April 2010 after a 72-day construction programme, the fastest ever in the UK for a bridge of its size.
Workington (Calva) Bridge: opened in March 2011 after a technically challenging restoration and strengthening project which has subsequently won engineering awards.
Navvies footbridge: a new £ 1.7m steel bow-arch bridge opened in September 2011.
The vintage bus is a blue Leyland National provided by Workington Transport Heritage Trust which was built at Leyland's Lillyhall factory in 1979. It was in use during the Trust's free Boxing Day bus service in 2009 linking communities on both sides of the river via Barkers Crossing footbridge.