£1.6m job to replace 517 bearings on Grimsby’s flyover: Behind-the-scenes tour of 12-month project

Photo of Grimsby from the air

Blood, sweat and tears have gone into the groundbreaking work being carried out at a flyover bridge in Grimsby, according to planners.

The bearings on the Cleethorpe Road flyover are in the process of being replaced and the construction work has led to much traffic disruption in the Riby Square area.

We were invited on a tour around the site, which has been under construction since July 2014.

The £1.68 million project has involved particular building methods that, according to developers, have never been used in England before.

Caroline Sapcote, structural engineer at Cofely, worked as project manager on the programme to replace the old bearings on the flyover.

The Cleethorpes engineer, 39, said it had been a tough project and it was important that motorists were made aware of the scale of the work being carried out.

“This has been my first major project whilst working in my position with Cofely and I have been working on this full-time for about a year – it has taken blood, sweat and tears,” she said.

“I have really enjoyed being project manager.

“In my role it has been my responsibility to sort out the workers’ contracts and to work out the costs, including everything – even gloves and boots.

“I know that there are not many women doing this sort of job so it does make me feel proud.”

Caroline added that, while she understood the frustrations of motorists over the bridge works, she explained that there would be more serious, long-term implications if the work was not completed.

She said: “When we first decided the work needed doing, we never intended to close the bridge because the records showed that the work we intended to do was not as major as it soon appeared.

“After inspecting it ourselves, we realised that it would have added six months onto the job if we were to keep the bridge open.”

Caroline explained that while no specific completion date has been set, the work is expected to be finished by late May/June time.

After a routine inspection in 2011, it was decided that the bearings on the bridge, which allow for slight movement across the 17 spans of the structure, had come to “the end of their working life ” and that they should be replaced as a matter of “high priority”.

This was because that in their current condition, the bearings were constraining the movement of the bridge, which ultimately would cause continued maintenance issues.

However, it was decided the scope of the works to replace the bearings were beyond the financial limits of North East Lincolnshire Council’s allocated highway structures maintenance budget.

In January 2013, the Department for Transport made available £170 million funds for “Local Pinch Points” – a government scheme in which councils could apply for funding for construction work deemed essential.

Caroline worked with Cofely and North East Lincolnshire Council, who were able to prove to the Department for Transport the importance of the Cleethorpe Road flyover on the local network and the effects its failure would have on the local economy and growth .

And she said that the work, which is being carried out by Worcester contractors VolkerLaser, features working methods which have never been used in this country before.

“VolkerLaser are using reinforced concrete corbels in the works, which are cast to the side of the supporting piers to act as jacking points for the bridge,” she said.

“It is believed to be the first time that this method of temporary works has been used in England.

“As they are made of concrete and not the traditional material of steel, they work out cheaper and they can be more easily accessed in future repair works.”

Site manager James Maher, of VolkerLaser, showed councillors and staff from Cofely around the site and explained the various procedures which are being carried out.

He explained how the operation is being carried out to replace 517 bearings on the bridge.

In addition, bridge piers will be painted and a new drainage system fitted.

James also told how work on the bridge has proved complex because of the nearby Riby Square roadworks.

Head of highways and transport at North East Lincolnshire council Marcus Asquith said it was important that residents were informed about the challenging nature of the work being undertaken on the Cleethorpe Road flyover. “It’s impressive because it is one of the first projects in England to carry out this kind of work in this manner and it is something that we should all be proud of,” he said.

“There are also not many female engineers in this business and I think Caroline has done a tremendous job.

“This wouldn’t have come around without the council bidding for extra funding from the Government because the council did not have that kind of money.

“The bridge will give the area a new lease of life and it’s important that people using the road can see why this will benefit them. There is evidence behind why it has taken so long.”

Sourced from the Grimsby Telegraph, see original here.