Day 162/365 of Steel – Gateshead Millennium Bridge

Opening of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge on 17 September 2001

The Gateshead Millennium Bridge is a pedestrian and cyclist tilt bridge spanning the River Tyne in Newcastle upon Tyne. It was the first tilting bridge ever to be constructed. Opened for public use in 2001, the award-winning structure was conceived and designed by architectural practice WilkinsonEyre and structural engineering firm Gifford.

Gateshead Millennium Bridge
Fig 1: Gateshead Millennium Bridge
Photo courtesy of WilkinsonEye

The bridge consists of two steel arches – a deck which acts as the pedestrian and cycle path, and a supporting arch. To allow a boat to pass underneath, both arcs pivot and tilt together so the horizontal arc rises above the river. The bridge was designed to be as light as possible to allow for easy opening and closing, so the two arches are lighter towards the center span than at the hinges. The pedestrian and cycle deck is a parabolic shape with a 2.7m vertical camber. The two arches are joined together by 18 suspension cables which provide stability for people crossing the bridge.

Gateshead Millennium Bridge
Fig 2: Gateshead Millennium Bridge
Photo: Mike1024

Six hydraulic rams tilt the entire 850 T bridge as a single structure, meaning that when the supporting arch lowers, the pedestrian deck rises to create 25m of clearance for river traffic to pass underneath. The bridge takes around four minutes to rotate through the full 40° from closed to open, moving as fast as 18 mm per second.

Gateshead Millennium Bridge
Fig 3: Gateshead Millennium Bridge
Photo: JimmyGuano

Watson Steel was appointed as the specialist contractor to prefabricate the bridge, and they subcontracted the design of the hydraulic system to Kvaerner Markham. The entire structure was assembled by first welding together the nine arch sections and deck sections, and then attaching the cables to the arch and deck. The bridge was lifted into place in one piece on 20 November 2000. 

About the Author:

Bruno Dursin – Managing Director at Believe in Steel. Bruno has more than 30 years of experience in promoting steel & steel solutions. His clients benefit from his extensive network within the building industry.

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