Ski-lift technology used to aid £10.5m restoration of bridge linking England and Scotland

Technology more commonly seen on the slopes of the Swiss Alps is being used in the latest stage of restoration of the historic Union Chain Bridge.

Saturday, 26th December 2020, 7:00 am
An aerial cableway transporter is being used to aid restoration work on the Union Chain Bridge.
An aerial cableway transporter is being used to aid restoration work on the Union Chain Bridge.

Work on the 200-year-old structure which links England and Scotland got underway in October and will take around 18 months - during which time it’s completely closed.

Steel frame access towers are now up at both ends of the bridge which will be used to carry out the essential masonry repair works and to provide access for the installation of new rock anchors which will strengthen the structure once re-built.

A temporary access system’s been built that will carry cradles over the bridge and a platform beneath to allow workers close access to all elements of the bridge structure during dismantling and avoid the need to work from the River Tweed.

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The system is called a “Blondin” or aerial cableway transporter. This impressive technology, often used to maintain ski lifts and cable cars, is named after the French acrobat, born soon after the Union Chain Bridge opened, who famously crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope.

It’s the latest step for the structure which received £3.14million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The ambitious funding bid was put together by Northumberland County Council, Scottish Borders Council, Museums Northumberland and community group Friends of the Union Chain Bridge, following serious concerns about the condition of the structure.

Both councils committed match funding totalling £5.7million towards the scheme, with other fundraising activities continuing to be progressed by the Friends of Union Chain Bridge.

As well as conserving the historic structure, the project team has also developed a comprehensive programme of community engagement and education activities.

David Renwick, director, England, North, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are delighted to see that the work to ensure the iconic Union Chain Bridge is safeguarded is progressing apace and that it is using some innovative technology to do so."

Northumberland County Council leader, Glen Sanderson, added: “It’s fantastic to see real progress on the restoration of this famous bridge.

“With each passing week you can see the changes taking place and what extraordinary skills the teams working on site are using on this extremely complex engineering project.”

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