VolkerStevin logo with text underneath which reads 'New Wear high-level Footbridge' and Sunderland City Council logo in the bottom right corner.

VolkerStevin delivers innovative piling solution on Sunderland’s new Wear high-level footbridge

VolkerStevin has successfully delivered a unique, innovative piling solution on the New Wear high-level footbridge in Sunderland. Sunderland City Council appointed VolkerStevin under a two-stage early contractor involvement (ECI) contract to design and construct the New Wear high-level footbridge as part of the Riverside Sunderland Masterplan. The bridge’s north pier is located adjacent to the edge of River Wear and excavating an access route to enable a piling rig to install the piles was not possible. Constraints on river working also meant that a traditional approach could not be adopted.

In collaboration with VolkerGround Engineering, the team devised a bespoke cantilevered piling solution which navigated constraints relating to access, design, and environmental challenges. This approach not only enabled the successful completion of a critical element of the project but has set a benchmark for future projects.

Mark Denham, VolkerStevin’s Project Director said: “At VolkerStevin we are no strangers to overcoming complex engineering challenges and the innovative cantilevered piling frame was a crucial part required for the success of this project. The development of this solution was made possible through a collaborative approach involving our in-house temporary works team and piling specialists, key supply chain partners and our client."

“The absence of similar existing solutions prompted extensive research across different sectors. We rigorously evaluated potential solutions based on health and safety, environmental impact, and buildability, leading to the development of this preferred solution from concept to detailed design”.

Mark Denham VolkerStevin’s Project Director

The cantilevered piling frame enabled the piling rig to track out from ground level at the bottom of an access slope and position over the permanent pile location. Additional support guides were required to support the frame at the mid and end points due to the distance of the piles, horizontally, from the bottom of the slope. These supports had no positive connection to allow for an element of motion during piling operations.

The frame we designed allowed us to complete a set of six piles at each location, being relocated after each set. A waste tray also spanned the frame to the rear of the piling rig so that the pile arisings did not enter the river and could be recovered for disposal by traditional means.

Piling to the south pier also required an innovative approach to prevent loading to a historical wall and the team designed two rows of temporary piles, the front row in compression and the rear in tension. From here it was possible to create a foundation to support the fully cantilevered piling frame and install the permanent piles with no loading placed on the historical wall.  

The same frame was used for piling operations to both the north and south piers with fabrication, alterations and testing carried out on site by the VolkerStevin project team.   

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We’re delighted to be moving forward with works on the new Wear footbridge."

“The innovative work VolkerStevin has done so far is fantastic and will be pivotal to helping us execute our Riverside Sunderland masterplan. The change the footbridge will make to the city will be incredible, becoming a true centrepiece of the city.”

Councillor Graeme Miller Leader of Sunderland City Council

Once complete the new footbridge will be 10m wide, 30m high and over 250m long, comprising reinforced concrete piers, steel box girder superstructure and a precast concrete deck. Other features include steel parapets, lighting, street furniture and various architectural features. It will provide access to both pedestrians and cyclists, creating improved connections between the city centre and the Sheepfolds area.