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Gateshead Millennium Bridge
River Tyne, Gateshead Quays, Tyne & Wear, UK
Gateshead Millennium Bridge
associated engineer
Gifford Graham & Partners
Bennett Associates
date  1998 - 17th September 2001
era  Modern  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  NZ256639
photo  Jane Joyce
The Millennium footbridge over the Tyne from Gateshead to Newcastle is a bow-shaped bascule bridge. The whole bridge rotates vertically like an enormous winking eye — and is the world's first bridge to do so. It consists of a pair of steel arches (one of which supports the deck) that span the river, connected at their spring points and tied together along their lengths by steel cables, reminiscent of the hangers used on suspension bridges.
The bridge was one of several commissioned for sites around the country to celebrate the new millennium. Most were completed in 2001. This bridge is also the seventh on the Tyne in Newcastle and lies within sight of a number of famous predecessors, including the Tyne Bridge and Robert Stephenson's High Level Bridge. The Tyne is a busy shipping lane and any bridge needs to accommodate waterborne traffic, hence the tilting mechanism.
The 8m wide deck, with its pedestrian and cycle paths, is a near horizontal curve 126m long, spanning 105m. The pedestrian lane is some 300mm higher than the cycle track. In the bridge's closed state, with the cable stays upright, the top of the arch is 50m above the river.
The two arches and the cables between them form a single rigid structure that tilts as one entity, each arch counterbalancing the other, minimising energy consumption. A glass canopy at either end of the bridge covers the hydraulic operating machinery, which is powered by eight electric motors.
The steel superstructure was fabricated in sections in Bolton, transported to Wallsend, Newcastle, for welding and painting and then taken 9.7km upriver where it was lifted into place — with a clearance of just 2mm — on 20th November 2000 by Europe’s largest floating shear legs crane (Asian Hercules II).
The 1,100 tonne structure can rotate up to 55 degrees and provides headroom of 25m for vessels when open. As it tilts, the centre of mass moves from one arch to the other so that the supporting arch is temporarily the supported arch. The arches meet and pivot about thrust bearings, linked to hydraulic rams by arms 5m long.
The piled concrete foundations are up to 30m deep and the bridge can withstand a 4,000 tonne vessel striking it at 4 knots (7.4km per hour).
On 28th June 2001 the bridge tilted for the first time, watched by 36,000 people. It was opened to the public on 17th September. The bridge cost £22m to build and takes four and a half minutes to 'blink' (tilt open and closed). Any litter on the bridge rolls into traps when it opens.
The bridge was designed by architect Keith Brownlie of Wilkinson Eyre Architects. Gifford Graham & Partners handled the structural engineering and Bennett Associates the mechanical and electrical design.
It was opened officially by HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Prince Philip on 7th May 2002 as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. It has featured on postage stamps and pound coins. Also in 2002, it won the RIBA Sterling Prize as ‘building of the year’ — the first bridge to do so. In 2003, the bridge received the supreme award at the Institution of Structural Engineers Structural Awards.
Architect: Keith Brownlie, Wilkinson Eyre Architects
Contractor: Harbour & General
Contractor: Volker Stevin
Steelwork: Watson Steel Ltd
Cables: Bridon International
Software: LUSAS
Research: ECPK
"Gateshead Millennium Bridge—an eye-opener for engineering" by John Johnson and Peter Curran, ICE Proceedings — Civil Engineering, Vol.156, Issue 1, pp.16-24, February 2003
"Gateshead Millennium Bridge, UK: fabrication, assembly and erection" by K. Butterworth, D. Carr and P. Kassabian, ICE Proceedings — Bridge Engineering, Vol.156, Issue 1, pp.11-19, March 2003

Gateshead Millennium Bridge