The 100-metre high steel structure reached its final vertical resting place at about 3.30pm on Saturday 11th February 2017.
It took 15-and-a-half hours – split over two days – to complete the lift, which saw the 1550-tonne pylon gradually raised into place during a slow and precise strandjacking operation by Belgian heavylift specialist Sarens.
The operation was the culmination of two years of design and planning, and 12 months of fabricating the pylon for Farrans Construction and Victor Buyck Steel Construction, which formed FVB joint venture to deliver the project on behalf of Sunderland City Council.
FVB project director Stephen McCaffrey said the raising operation had gone very smoothly. “It's a great day for everyone working on the project – we have been working towards this day since we broke ground 19 months ago,” he said.
“We could have built the pylon on site, from the ground up, but we chose to fabricate it in one go, off site, in a factory environment because we had better control over conditions, got a better quality of finish, and could avoid having people working at height.
“The transportation of the pylon from the fabrication yard in Belgium and the raising on site have been challenging, but we planned well and the result was a successful operation."
Patrick Van Severen, project director for Victor Buyck Steel Construction, added: "Lifting the pylon was definitely the most challenging part of this whole project. The sheer size and weight of the structure, as well as its shape, meant that getting it here on site, attached to the foundations and then raised into position took a lot of preparation and precision from a large team of people who each brought their skills to the project.
“We had allowed the whole weekend for the raising operation, but we completed in less than 16 hours over two days, so we are very happy. Now our focus turns to the next phases of work. We will be launching the bridge deck out across the river in spring and will start connecting the cable stays in the summer. After that, people will really see the bridge come to life.”
Cllr Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council, was among the crowds watching the pylon raised into place. "You can use your imagination, and you can look at countless photographs and impressions, but nothing can really prepare you for what the centrepiece looks like over the river," he said.
“I suppose it's a bit like watching Match of the Day and actually being in the crowd at a football game – there is no comparison and it is the same for me here today. Seeing the pylon raised into position, standing high above the River Wear, makes me feel very proud. It also gives us a real indication of the impact this bridge is going to have on Sunderland.
“We are on budget and on time to complete this project by the spring of 2018, and then we can really start to make sure this new bridge delivers for Sunderland.”
The video below shows the lifting operation.