Major bridge refurbishment finished before Christmas deadline

A multi-million pound refurbishment of Rochester Bridge has been completed on time and on budget despite the challenges posed by Covid-19.

The extensive programme of works involved strengthening the structures and other significant safety improvements.

Despite the complexity of the work, much of which involved working underneath the bridges, the project achieved an outstanding health and safety record.

The Rochester Bridge Refurbishment Project delivered repairs and renovation to the 1914 Old Bridge, which has elements dating to 1856; the 1970 New Bridge and Service Bridge; and an area of Rochester Esplanade.

Sue Threader, Bridge Clerk of the Rochester Bridge Trust which owns and maintains the crossings, said: “This refurbishment was a major undertaking, even before the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, and I am incredibly proud of the efforts of everyone involved. The Old Bridge in particular is a complicated structure with elements dating from different periods, which pose additional engineering challenges. Every detail was carefully considered, from the condition of the bearings to the choice of stone and bricks, to the mood of the lighting.

“The work was carried out to an exceptionally high standard and we worked as hard and as fast as we could to minimise inconvenience to the public, in spite of the massive scale of the task. Now the refurbishment is complete it will ensure the bridges are in the best possible condition for many years to come.

“Throughout the 18-month project, which involved more than 90,000 working hours, there were no lost-time incidents and just two very minor on-site injuries – both of which were resolved with the use of a first aid kit.”

Hundreds of different activities took place along the length of the bridges and surrounding area. Much of the work was unseen by the public because it took place on the huge scaffold beneath the deck, which alone cost well over a million pounds. The work was carried out by lead contractor FM Conway and a team of specialist sub-contractors.

Liam McGoldrick, Senior Contracts Manager – Structures at FM Conway, added: “These bridges are iconic structures and the work was carried out to the highest possible standards, both from an engineering point of view and with regards to heritage and visual aesthetics. On some of the activities we worked with our own experienced workforce as well as very specialised technical sub-contractors and skilled craftspeople to ensure the quality was to the standard the Trust required.

“With all the major works complete, we have now demobilised from the site. FM Conway will return in the new year to carry out some minor works which couldn’t be completed because of Covid-19 supply chain issues, such as completing the fixings on the parapet of the New Bridge.”

The activities included in the Rochester Bridge Refurbishment Project are: strengthening, deck repairs, painting, pest prevention, re-roofing, parapet replacement, improved modern lighting, replacing expansion joints, waterproofing, resurfacing, concrete and masonry repairs, steelwork repairs and replacement, river wall repairs, repointing of the river wall, culvert installation, landscaping, infilling of redundant lavatories, removal of a redundant gas main and sewer, cantilever dismantling, renovation of heritage lighting, drainage repairs and replacements, an improved seating area, new signs, granite walls and kerbs, a new gabion wall and enhancement lighting.

Sue added: “We worked closely with FM Conway throughout the project, building a relationship based on trust and co-operation that proved vital when the first lockdown began and much of the management had to be carried out remotely. Further small improvement projects are planned for 2021 and beyond but these can be delivered without significant interruption to the users of the bridges.”

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