Innovative swing bridge likelyto become a visitor attraction

Simon Bristow

IT may look uninspiring now, but in nine months time a large ring of concrete and steel will have been transformed into the fulcrum of one of the most spectacular river crossings in the country.

Engineers from the Barnsley firm Qualter Hall are nearly halfway through a 7.5m scheme to create a swing bridge across the River Hull.

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It will not only open up a new pedestrian route between Hull’s Old Town and the East Bank, but become a visitor attraction in its own right.

Based on a concept by award-winning architects McDowell and Benedetti – whose landmark schemes include Castleford Bridge over the River Aire – the structure will offer pedestrians the chance to “ride” on the bridge as it swings open to allow boats to pass along the river.

It may even be a world first. Qualter Hall technical director Graham Carr said: “There’s nothing like it in Europe and as far as we know there’s nothing like it in the world.

“It’s going to be functional but it’s also an aesthetically pleasing scheme and something that’s different for Hull, something that’s unique.”

The 16-metre diameter circular structure on the West Bank will house a bistro that will offer diners stunning views – downstream to the city’s tidal barrier and the confluence with the River Humber, and upstream to the mix of historic buildings and new apartment blocks.

It also looks over the Arctic Corsair, the former trawler that is now a floating museum.

The scheme will contain an element of art through the input of artist Nayan Kulkarni.

The bridge has been designed to look “like a fish with a tail” and will have unusual means of warning people it is about to open.

More than 600 different sounds linked to music will be played at various times, with the opening sequence set to the sound of a waterfall.

Tim Wrigglesworth, senior development manager at project managers Hull Forward, said: “As well as the sounds there will be flashing lights, but not the usual orange, red and green.

“It will almost look like it’s coming to life at night with the lights following the bridge so the pedestrians are guided around. It will be spectacular.”

Work is under way on the actual 350-tonne bridge at the Qualter Hall factory in Barnsley.

It will have a span of 57 metres and will be transported by road in 15 pieces before being assembled at the site with the aid of a floating crane.

The installation will cause a three-day closure to traffic on the river and will probably be carried out over a weekend to minimise disruption.

The development is all the more welcome as other major regeneration projects in the city have either stalled or struggled to attract funding in the recession.

It had been hoped the bridge, largely funded by Yorkshire Forward, would provide the main link to a 100m scheme of apartments, offices, retail facilities and restaurants on the East Bank known as The Boom, but this fell victim to the downturn.

That has not stopped the site being cleared in anticipation of the project being delivered in the future, and it is hoped the bridge, which has yet to be named, will help attract investment.

Landscaping work will be carried out around the entrances to both sides of the bridge and other cosmetic improvements will help spruce up the boardwalk and buildings on the West Bank.

Mr Wrigglesworth said: “It’s about trying to get things up and ready for when the development opportunity comes along.”