New Kent bridge boosts economy
A newly-opened bridge in North Kent will help boost the local economy.
A new high-level bridge in North Kent, opened by the roads minister, will aid efforts to boost the local economy.
The bridge was opened 2006-07-03 by Dr Stephen Ladyman, who said that it will contribute much as part of a £100 million project to help create new jobs in the area.
"The new bridge is playing a major role in bringing new life to Sheppey by improving the transport links between the island, the M2 motorway and the rest of Kent," he commented.
"The bridge will greatly improve accessibility to regeneration areas on Sheppey, including the port of Sheerness."
The bridge replaces an older lifting bridge that closed to traffic to make room for ships passing through on the Swale stretch of water between the Kent coast and the Isle of Sheppey.
This old bridge was designed in 1959 to accommodate traffic volumes much lower than those today.
The new bridge is part of a crucial project to modernise the A249 between Iwade and Sheerness as part of the infrastructure to support the Thames Gateway project.
Four lanes of traffic will be carried by the bridge, providing more reliable journeys for drivers and supporting economic regeneration by bringing new business and leisure opportunities.
It will help to cut the congestion caused by the Kingsferry bridge, which must close 2,000 times a year to make way for passing ships, causing delays on the A249 as a result.
Standing at 29 metres above the Swale, the new bridge will allow ships to pass underneath without traffic being disrupted.
The Royal Fine Art Commission-approved bridge design stands at 1.25 kilometres long and blends with the Sheppey landscape, which contains an RSPB reserve at Elmley Marshes.
Upgrading the road links on both sides of the bridge will allow smoother progress to and from the A2 and M2.
An innovative system was used to build the bridge, with a section of deck being lifted into place on land and pushed forward by a system of jacks and cables.
The second section of the deck was then lifted into place behind it and both sections were bolted on behind and pushed forward.
Project engineers had to construct five of the bridge piers in water in the Swale using coffer dams and with the two main piers either side of the navigation being designed to withstand a collision with a ship, they go down 25 metres into the London clay beneath the water.
A time capsule has been buried in one of the piers by local school children, showing that the Sheppey community supports the project.