Teesside and Sedgefield

Something of a rarity - the Teesquay Millennium Bridge is a Millennium Bridge that really did open in the Millennial year. It is a fine example of a cable-stay bridge spanning both the River Tees and the adjoining main road to link the University of Durham Stockton campus on the right bank with the town centre on the left bank.

The bridge is immensely popular and well-used by students. The bridge was opened in November 2000, not without some grumbles from the local press. Unfortunately, the design makes it inadequate for use by cyclists. The main bridge deck is only 2.7 m wide - scarcely wide enough for shared use in view of the high levels of pedestrian traffic; whilst the approach ramps and the extension of the bridge over Riverside (A1305) are only 2.0 m wide. Furthermore the only access from the bridge to the town centre is via the Castlegate shopping centre which is barred to bikes. A cyclepath is under development on the left bank of the river, but this leads back downstream to the Tees barrage and will only provide a very indirect link to the High Street. 

An absolutely stunning addition to the lower Tees was the completion of the so-called Infinity Bridge in 2009. This stands about 1200 m downstream from the Teesquay Bridge and 800 m upstream from the Tees Barrage. The bridge is intended to link the Teesdale Business Park (which includes campuses of both Teesside University and Durham University) on the South Shore with the as-yet undeveloped North Shore site. The design of the bridge is a dual tied arch or bowstring bridge. In practice, this means two arches of unequal size supported on a pier in the river. The pier is placed off-centre in the river bed to allow adequate width on one side for all manner of water sports and river craft. The curve of each arch continues smoothly into the other, the larger being 120 metres long and 32 metres high, the smaller 60 metres long and 16 metres high. The total length of the bridge (including a 38 m long approach on the north side and a 54 m approach on the south) is 273 metres. The deck is 5 metres wide (4 between handrails) allowing adequate width for cyclists and pedestrians (unlike the Teesquay Bridge). Seven tuned mass dampers are secured to the underside of the deck to prevent oscillations.  See the Wikipedia entry for more details.

In the adjacent district of Sedgefield, but listed here for geographical convenience, a new bridge, known variously as the County Durham Gateway Bridge or the Wynyard Bridge carries the Castle Eden Walkway and National Cycle Network route 1 over the busy A689 near Sedgefield in County Durham. A striking feature of this cable-stayed bridge, is the coloured "fans"  on either side of the deck. For some further photographs, see the Art2Architecture website. The bridge was opened by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in whose constituency the bridge lies, in September, 2001. 

The Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge does not qualify for inclusion in this website under any of the usual criteria - opened in 1911, so very definitely not millennial, and what is more it carries cars! But who could resist such an impressive (and unusual) bit of industrial archaeology, and it is after all the most prominent landmark in Teesside.  There appear to have been no more than 20 such bridges in the world at any time, generally at the lowest crossing point of a river, and the number of operational bridges today is probably no more than 10. A back number of Meccano Magazine gives a general account of British transporter bridges. Only two working transporter bridges survive in Britain - this one, and the recently restored transporter in Newport, Gwent. A third bridge, in Warrington, stands disused since 1964, but enjoys listed building status. The fourth bridge - which I crossed several times in my youth - was the Runcorn to Widnes transporter, which was closed and demolished in 1961 as soon as it was replaced by a road bridge. It appears that there are future plans to add a moving deck (a la transporter) to the newly completed Royal Victoria Dock footbridge in Newham, East London.

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