Reopening of historic cross-border bridge delayed until late spring

Preparations for rebuilding the famous Union Chain Bridge in the New Year are continuing.

Restoration work on the Union Chain Bridge.
Restoration work on the Union Chain Bridge.

Work on the £10.5m refurbishment of the 200-year-old structure, which spans the River Tweed near Horncliffe, got underway in October 2020.

The structure, which is a key transport link between Scotland and England, is the oldest operational chain suspension bridge in the world still carrying vehicles.

Over recent months teams have been busy inspecting, repairing and refurbishing all the components that made up the bridge after it was dismantled.

Masonry repairs are well-advanced, and engineers have been preparing to reinstall the critical chain elements in the Scottish tower top.

These components are essential in connecting the main span chains to the back stay chains and the new 800 tonne concrete anchor block that has been constructed on the Scottish side of the bridge.

This will allow the painstaking work of reassembling the bridge to start in earnest – firstly the main chains which support the bridge, then the hangers and the deck, with the railings being the final element before moving into completion in spring 2022.

While the project team had originally aimed for the bridge to be re-opened early in the New Year, due to a range of challenges being faced the reopening is now scheduled to be late spring.

Cllr John Riddle, cabinet member for local services at Northumberland County Council, said: “It’s fantastic to see month on month progress on the restoration of this famous bridge, although as with any major engineering project that involves work on a complex historic structure it hasn’t been without its challenges.

“The amount of replacement parts we’ve needed to make has been more than we first thought, but it’s often not possible to tell until you’ve taken the bridge apart and have undertaken detailed inspection and testing of every individual component, before you can accurately determine which parts are able to last for another 120 years and can be safely reused and those which need to be replaced.

“By carefully restoring the bridge to exactly how it should be will mean the crossing will be closed for a bit longer, but in doing so we will ensure that once it reopens in the spring it will remain available for many future generations to use, so we thank people for their patience.”

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