New design unveiled for a new River Ribble Tram Bridge

The final design has been unveiled for a new structure that will replace the former Old Tram Bridge over the River Ribble linking Preston city centre and South Ribble.  

The new Tram Bridge will be delivered by Preston City Council through its £20m Levelling Up funding allocation from the Department of Levelling Up Housing and Communities (DLUHC), together with funding from Lancashire County Council. Lancashire County Council is project managing and supporting the project working closely with Eric Wright Civil Engineering on the design and construction of the bridge.

The detailed design work for the look and structure of the bridge is in the final stages of development including the modelling of the bridge over the river flow and surrounding landscape. It has been a long process to get to this stage, with various designs being considered and rejected by the project technical team due to the specific requirements and challenges of the site.

The design of the bridge supports sustainability factors as well as minimising any environmental impacts of the new structure. The bridge will be of a high quality that meets local needs and takes account of its setting. The constraints are mainly set by the practical and logistical aspects of building the bridge in an inaccessible location, away from any roads, as well as constructing it in a narrow time window for ecology reasons and to meet the need to clear flood levels.  

The team are also working with a range of specialist consultants including Preston based Architects, Studio John Bridge, Jacobs Ltd, Bowland Ecology,  Smith and Love Consultants, Harris Engineering and DYCE Structural Engineers to ensure the work moves quickly to meet the scheme deadlines. Engagement with Friends of the Old Tram Bridge, a community group set up to support reinstatement of the bridge, is an important aspect of the project.

The total investment of the bridge is c.£6.6m and a large proportion is spent with local contractors and suppliers, in support of Preston City Council's commitment to Community Wealth Building (The Preston Model).

The team has been working behind the scenes to bring all elements together. A series of environmental assessments, ground investigations and topographical surveys have now all been completed. The team is also consulting with the Environment Agency, Marine Management Organisation and project ecologists, to ensure that the environmental impacts of the new bridge are considered fully throughout the construction, and the lifetime of the bridge - projected to be 120 years.

Cllr Valerie Wise, Cabinet Member for Community Wealth Building and city centre regeneration and development said: "It has been important to work with a local architect who understands the local context and we aim to provide an opportunity for the community to be kept informed of the proposals. It's important that we get it right and make sure it's a bridge that stands the test of time, as well as looking good in its surroundings."

County Councillor Aidy Riggott, Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Growth added: "The tram bridge is a key feature of this part of the River Ribble and the new bridge will restore an important active travel route between South Ribble and Preston city centre for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.

"Providing good sustainable transport links and places where people can stay healthy by enjoying the outdoors is a key aspect of our levelling up ambitions, and I'm very pleased to be investing in this project which will benefit people in this area for generations to come."

John Bridge from Studio John Bridge Architects said: “It is great to be part of the next chapter in the history of the Tram Road Bridge. Since its closure it has been a huge talking point and as a Prestonian I am so pleased the Council has secured through LUF funding. Since assisting the Councils and constructor, it is very impressive to see all the work that has been carried out behind the scenes by all parties, from ecology to logistics and legal departments. I hope with the support of the public and all involved, we’ll deliver this important transport link from the City Parks to South Ribble.”

Gavin Hulme, Operations Director, Eric Wright Civil Engineering said: "We are proud to be working in collaboration with Preston and Lancashire to deliver this landmark bridge project. We have worked on numerous complex river bridges in recent years and it is a privilege to be working on one so close to our head office and to contribute towards the long-standing infrastructure of Lancashire."

Glenn Cookson, Friends of the Old Tram Bridge said: "There has been a great deal of progress behind the scenes, and we are really encouraged to be able to see how the new bridge is going to look when it is finished. The project team have a big task ahead to ensure that the bridge is delivered on time and the funding is spent by the end of 2025, so it is important that there are no delays to the programme.

"The new bridge design won't replicate the existing design but it will be attractive and sympathetic to its surroundings, and we hope that the people of Preston are happy to support the new design. We have been without a bridge for more than four years and now we need this important pedestrian/ cycling link back."

Works to prune or remove trees around the bridge approaches is about to start improving access to the bridge in advance of the main works.

Subject to approval, the main bridge works are programmed to start later in the summer.  

The new bridge will be delivered by Spring 2025.

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