Council underwrites spiralling costs of Newport Transporter Bridge refurbishment
Newport Council has agreed to underwrite the £3m shortfall in the increase to the cost of repairing and refurbishing the city’s historic transporter bridge following the collapse of the original contractor.
The council initially intended to invest £11.9m to turn it into a tourist destination, rejuvenating the bridge and building a visitor centre, and the project was to be partly funded with £8.75M from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Additional funding for the project includes £1.38M from the Council’s Capital Programme and £1.5M from the Welsh government, as well as other smaller grants and fundraising contributions.
Cleveland Bridge, the company which built the original structure in 1906, was appointed to carry out the repair work in February last year and was due to complete in early 2022.
While work on the project began in March 2021, in July the company went into administration leaving its 230 employees facing redundancy.
Since then, the price quoted to repair the bridge has more than doubled, from £4,668,243 to £9,342,010, while the cost of constructing the visitor centre also increased by 18%, meaning the overall package of works has risen from £11.9M to £17M.
The council said that the increases “reflected worsening market conditions impacted by a global backdrop of increased costs and labour shortages, the new tenders returned significantly higher prices.”
The National Lottery Heritage Fund has been “sympathetic to the project’s plight” according to the council, and has provided an uplift of £1.95M on top of the £8.75M previously promised.
A value engineering review also identified £684k of savings in the project, although this does not significantly alter the scope of the project, which still had a shortfall of around £3M.
On 28 April Newport Council agreed to underwrite the increased costs allowing them to appoint new contractors to both the visitor centre and the bridge restoration elements of the project.
The Grade I listed structure, which is one of only six remaining transporter bridges in the world and requires a specialist construction company, carries traffic across the River Usk’ 197m span in a gondola.
Work needs to be carried out on the gondola bridge’s cross beams and anchorage housing, as well as replacing rotting timbers and worn anchor pins and cables on the main booms.
Announcing the decision to secure the funding, Newport Council added: “The council has continued to run engagement work with schools, community groups and the wider public while the re-tendering process has been carried out, which has resulted in around 1400 people being engaged with the project since January 2022.
“The bridge will be open to the public this coming bank holiday Monday (2 May), with gondola rides and access to the top walkway available from 10am-3.30pm.”
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