Completion delay for Chain Bridge project on England/Scotland border

Work being carried out on the Union Chain Bridge project in 2021. Picture by Phil Wilkinson.Work being carried out on the Union Chain Bridge project in 2021. Picture by Phil Wilkinson.
Work being carried out on the Union Chain Bridge project in 2021. Picture by Phil Wilkinson.
The team working on the rebuilding of the famous Union Chain Bridge has revealed that the opening has been pushed back to the summer.

Work on the £10.5million refurbishment of the 202-year-old structure, which spans the River Tweed near Horncliffe, got underway in October 2020.

Due to the complex nature of the structure and the delicate measures required to ensure the bridge is refurbished and restored to its former glory, while maintaining as much of the fabric of the original structure, the scheme is taking longer than expected.

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Once complete, the structure that is an important transport link between Scotland and England will once again be the oldest operational chain suspension bridge in the world to still be carrying vehicles.

A spokesman for the project team said: “Due to the construction configuration of the main suspension chains, the exact condition of the individual chain components was largely unknown – meaning the initial refurbishment scope and quantities had to be estimated.

“Once the structure had been fully dismantled, the true scale of these repairs and refurbishments were realised.

“Extensive corrosion had accumulated around the chain eyelets, significantly reducing their overall capacity.

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“Through thorough inspections and assessments of every component, engineers attempted to minimise the number of replacement parts required.

“However, despite these best efforts, a large number of replacement components were required.

“The significant number of replacement components, combined with some production difficulties and the challenging nature of carefully and methodically reassembling the chains across the River Tweed is resulting in a longer than anticipated installation time for the main suspension chains.

“It is now anticipated that the main suspension chains will be fully re-installed across the river by the end of May, enabling work to commence on the installation of the hangers and reconstruction of the bridge deck and hand rails.”

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Further updates will be provided on the works as the scheme progresses towards its revised forecast for completion – summer 2022.

The project has received support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Northumberland County Council, Scottish Borders Council, Museums Northumberland and community group Friends of the Union Chain Bridge.