Being the Chief Executive of the Rochester Bridge Trust is a great privilege and honour. As a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, I follow in the footsteps of centuries of engineers who have ensured travellers have a safe and convenient way of crossing the lower reaches of the River Medway.
I am acutely aware of the importance of this crossing to local people and so we have worked extremely hard to plan the programme. We have designed the contract to keep disruption to the absolute minimum and to maximise the work that is done while any lane of the bridges has to be closed for safety reasons. We do most of our current maintenance at weekends and overnight when traffic flows are lightest and we will do this as much as we can for this project.
All of the Trust’s work – including the Rochester Bridge Refurbishment Project – is done at no cost to the public. A key part of my role is to manage the property estates and financial investments to ensure there will be sufficient money to ensure this arrangement can continue in perpetuity.
The forthcoming contract will be awarded following a competitive tendering process. The main contractor will be selected based on their approach to minimising disruption, respecting the heritage of the structures, quality of work and value for money. I am delighted that our project manager will be Stuart Hercus of Arcadis, who very successfully led the refurbishment of the arches of the Old Bridge for us a few years ago.
It is essential that large bridges are properly maintained. Although our team carries out regular routine maintenance, there comes a time when more extensive work is needed to make sure the crossings remain safe and secure. It’s a bit like the schedule of services you might have with a car – you routinely keep it clean, change the oil and replace the bulbs, but after a large number of miles, the timing belt needs to be replaced. We are reaching the point now where the Trust’s three bridges at Rochester need some more major work.
The New Bridge was built in the late 1960s and some parts, such as the lighting, parapet and expansion joints, have reached the end of their serviceable life and need to be replaced.
The lighting on the Old Bridge is poor and it is time to improve it and install LEDs to reduce the environmental impact. Because of the bridge’s Grade II listed status, the existing lights are being refurbished and upgraded and some additional matching lanterns have been specially designed for the Trust. These are currently being made by specialist craftspeople.
Rochester Esplanade was constructed in 1856, from the remains of the old medieval bridge. The structure and river wall need some attention and a new drainage system will be installed. Once the structural repairs are complete, the whole area in front of the Bridge Chamber will be landscaped and new benches will be added, together with information about the history of the bridges.
I am looking forward to the completion of the contract, when the bridges will be in the best possible condition for future generations.
There are some exciting elements to the work which will improve journeys for the bridge users, including the above-mentioned new lighting, the resurfacing of both road bridges and refurbishment of the Esplanade to provide a nicer place for people to linger and enjoy the river and the view of the Old Bridge.
I am also keen to see the less obvious work completed. Although much of this will be out of the public eye, as a civil engineer it will give me great satisfaction to know that the structure will be in the best possible state.