At the start of 2020, the Trust began planning a series of public engagement activities to inform the community about the works involved in the Rochester Bridge Refurbishment Project.
The first activity was to be a lecture towards the end of March, reviewing progress so far and celebrating a few engineering highlights. This was to be followed by more lectures, some hard hat tours of the site, and even some learning activities and tours for children.
Bridge Programme Manager Kate Castle explains: “This was to be a varied programme of activities aimed at both informing the community and – we hoped – inspiring more people to take an interest in civil engineering. However, lockdown and the importance of social distancing for everyone’s safety meant all of these events have had to be postponed, possibly even cancelled.”
The opening lecture was postponed at the beginning of March, and arrangements for all other events put on hold. At the start of April the refurbishment itself was then put on hold, while the entire programme was reviewed to ensure the safety of all workers before it could re-start in mid-May.
Kate adds: “As we began to review and revise the programme of works, it became apparent that the opportunity to bring people onto site may be lost. As the work can continue under lockdown, many activities are likely to be completed before it becomes safe to gather a group of people together, while other works have had to be postponed to a much later date because they cannot be carried out under social distancing.
“This meant we had to come up with an alternative. We’ve started to create a series of virtual tours: short presentations that introduce people to the Trust, refurbishment, health and safety, and – soon – various elements of the work being carried out.
“We believe these act as a simple introduction to the topics, helping people to understand more about the bridges and the work and hopefully inspiring viewers of all ages to want to find out more.”