Tadcaster’s MP, Nigel Adams was joined by Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid MP and the town’s young people and school children for the opening procession and ribbon cutting at Tadcaster Bridge today.
Thousands of people from the town gathered in celebratory mood to watch the bridge’s reopening just over a year after Tadcaster was cut in two when the bridge collapsed due to the force of flood water before New Year 2016.
The 18th century grade two listed bridge has been reconstructed and widened with £3m from the Government and £1.4m from the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership.
North Yorkshire County Council’s Leader, Cllr Carl Les, and Chairman, Cllr Val Arnold, along with Barry Dodd, chairman of the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership and many of the town’s business people, also joined the procession over the bridge.
Mr Javid, who declared the bridge formally open accompanied by Mr Adams, MP for Selby and Ainsty, said: “The floods here in Tadcaster turned people’s lives upside down, and nowhere was that more apparent than with the closure of the bridge. Today’s reopening is a significant milestone, and is a clear sign that this community is back on its feet and open for business.”
Mr Adams said: “Today is a fantastic day for Tadcaster, reuniting the town after 13 months of separation. I always said when the bridge collapsed that Tadcaster would bounce back stronger and I believe it has done that.
“We have a better, safer bridge. The County Council and its contractor have done a fantastic job to get the bridge reopened. Stone bridges are complex to repair and the fact that this bridge has been reopened in 13 months is a fantastic team effort, supported by funding from central government and the local enterprise partnership.”
Contractors have been working around the clock since the autumn to finish the work as quickly as possible despite problems caused earlier in the project by high river levels and more recently by freezing conditions.
Because of the importance of the bridge to Tadcaster’s community, the County Council started the Herculean task of reconstruction only two and half weeks after the bridge’s collapse. It has pulled out all the stops to complete a project – which of its kind would normally take about two years – in half the time.
In recent days to do everything possible to keep work progressing, the contractors erected heated tents over the masonry parapet wall on the upstream side of the bridge to counter freezing temperatures so the stone work could set. But even with these efforts it has been extremely challenging to get the bridge open by the end of this week.
In Parliament earlier this week Theresa May, the Prime Minister, thanked the team “who worked so hard to restore the bridge” and she also joined local MP Nigel Adams in thanking people in Tadcaster “who have had to put up with disruption and inconvenience for such a long time.”
“Today is a great moment in the history of Tadcaster,” said County Councillor Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Highways. “Its community has been literally cut in two for a year by the bridge’s collapse and people have been eagerly looking forward to this time when they are reconnected. We thank them for the patience and fortitude they have shown throughout the year.
“I am very proud of the enormous effort made by our contractors, Balfour Beatty, and our bridges team to complete a very challenging project of this kind in little more than half the time it would normally take. Everybody has put their back into this so that Tadcaster can be reconnected and get on with the business of daily life and building its economy. The bridge has not only been restored with great sensitivity befitting its historic status, but also widened to meet the needs of a modern transport system.”
Dave Robinson, Project Director for Tadcaster Bridge at Balfour Beatty, said: “Balfour Beatty is extremely proud to have played a part in rebuilding Tadcaster Bridge, giving back to the local community this important link.
“Due to its grade II listed status, we have had to draw on our extensive experience to employ traditional materials and methods to reconstruct the bridge as it was originally built. We have also implemented 21st century technology during the reconstruction process, using our in-house team to carry out a 3D survey of the structure to establish geometry for the design of the works.
“We were delighted to be appointed by North Yorkshire County Council, following a successful partnership on the North Yorkshire coastal protection scheme and hope the local community is able to enjoy the reopened Tadcaster Bridge for many more centuries to come.”
Timeline, facts and figures:
- Christmas Day 2015 – we closed Tadcaster bridge due to fears about the bridge’s stability during heavy rains and flooding
- Tadcaster Bridge collapsed on December 29 2015 because its central piers were undermined by the ferocity of the river flow due to the flooding. Over 650 tonnes of water every second was hitting the bridge during peak flow;
- The flow in the river that caused the collapse was twice the intensity that we have encountered in rivers throughout North Yorkshire in the past 30 years;
- We moved fully on site within two and a half weeks and went straight into the massive task of rebuilding the bridge;
- Few contractors had the required skills for rebuilding such a structure but one of them, Balfour Beatty, was already working with us on coastal defence works. We therefore appointed them to rebuild the bridge at Tadcaster and had them on site removing debris within a week of the collapse (normally if a bridge reconstruction was planned as part of a works programme there would be a year of preparation involving detailed design work, engagement with contractors, the community, Historic England and the planning authority before works even started on site. But because the impact of the collapse meant that Tadcaster was literally cut in two the work on site started immediately)
- We carried out stabilising work to ensure the bridge would not collapse any further;
- We immediately introduced a shuttle bus service, improved pedestrian access over the viaduct nearby and looked at the possibilities of building a temporary footbridge;
- A suitable location for the footbridge was hard to find, but with the help of Tadcaster Albion Football Club that provided access, a temporary footbridge was in place by February 8th, only 5 weeks after the bridge collapsed;
- In order to keep the community fully informed of developments we created a single point of contact for traffic issues, we appointed a communication officer for the town, we created a dedicated web-page, erected an information board and positioned two TV screens one either side of the bridge;
- We carried out flow studies on the river to understand if there was anything unusual to understand about the river in order to rebuild the bridge so it could withstand a similar event in future;
- Because the bridge is Grade II listed we had to obtain approval from Historic England and the planning authority for any changes and to approve the materials we use and the quality of work;
- The existing bridge had a masonry layer core behind the visible masonry face. The fast flowing water had penetrated the piers themselves and picked this internal stonework apart. We therefore asked permission to fill the inside of the new piers with mass concrete so that they would be stronger and resistant to any future water penetration;
- A new base for the pier had to be designed with piling under the base and sheet piles surrounding the pier to prevent any scouring of the river bed under the piers from happening again;
- The size of the team at its largest has been 45 workers on site in a single day;
- Total number of hours worked on the bridge will be approximately 60,000;
- We had to find the right quarry (near Doncaster) and match existing stone for strength, colour, texture, density and porosity;
- Over 1000 tonnes of stone have been quarried to provide 686 tonnes of cut stone – 1342 stones cut to an individual shape and size;
- Footways on the historic bridge were very narrow making access for wheelchairs and pushchairs very difficult. The road width also narrowed across the bridge making the presence of large vehicles and cyclists hazardous. If river defences were ever to be enhanced then the upstream parapet wall needed to be strengthened. We therefore obtained £1.4m from the local enterprise partnership to strengthen and widen the bridge.
- On September 13th we obtained planning permission to widen the bridge;
- Autumn 2016 –high river levels hampered progress of works;
- We put our contractors on a 24/7operation to make up for lost time;
- Freezing temperatures over Christmas and New Year and towards the end of January hampered the masonry work further;
- January 27th Tadcaster businesses give coffee and cakes to bridge contractors as a thank you for their hard work
- Friday February 3rd – the bridge ready to open to traffic