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Transporter Bridge £16m revamp ‘nearing completion’ after delays and cost hikes

25 Jun 2024 3 minute read
Newport Transporter Bridge. Credit: Google

Nicholas Thomas Local Democracy Reporter

A new visitor centre for Newport’s Transporter Bridge is “nearing completion”, but an opening date is yet to be announced.

The city council hopes the £16.9 million centre will draw more visitors to the iconic bridge, which played a key role in Newport’s industrial past and is one of the few surviving examples of the structure left in the world.

The project has hit several obstacles, including total costs rising by £5m in 2022, when a new contractor had to be hired at short notice.

Bad weather has also played a part in delaying construction work and maintenance of the nearly 120-year-old bridge, leading to doubts the project would be finished on time.

“Beset with delays”

Chris Reeks, a Conservative city councillor, said the scheme “has been beset with delays since last year and is still not open”.

In a written question to Newport City Council, he sought confirmation of an opening date and assurances the local authority “will not be liable for any further costs that may have arisen due to the delays in finishing the works”.

In response, Labour councillor Emma Stowell-Corten, who is the cabinet member for communications and culture, said the visitor centre project “has visibly progressed on site with the building itself nearing completion”.

“It was great to see the link installed between the footbridge and the visitor centre a few weeks ago,” she added. “External landscaping work is next to be completed.

“Officers have advised that no additional costs for the visitor centre are expected.”

Council documents show scheduled road closures at the site access point, which began September 2022, are due to expire at the end of next month.

But Cllr Stowell-Corten said an opening date for the revamped attraction will only be announced after the upcoming general election, due to take place on Thursday July 4.

Project

Newport’s Transporter Bridge opened in 1906 and carried workers across the River Usk to their workplaces on the eastern bank.

It is reportedly one of six surviving transporter bridges worldwide.

The current project began in August 2022 and involves “extensive restoration of the bridge structure”, as well as the new visitor centre, which connects to the bridge via a new walkway.

The city council said previously the new centre will “allow us to bring the history of the site to life through showcasing the personal stories of those who designed, built and used the bridge”.

Later that year, the project cost rose from £11.9m to £16.9m owing to “worsening market conditions” and the need to hire a new contractor.

The city council contributed £3m to that extra spending, with the rest provided by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

At the end of 2023, councillors heard bad weather was interrupting maintenance efforts, with staff frequently forced to stop work until conditions improved.

A council report at the time said the project may not be completed until spring 2025, but developments this week suggest the scale of disruption could be less than previously expected.


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