Drone operators have been warned by Northumbrian police to keep away from the raising of way the centrepiece of Sunderland’s new bridge, which is due to take place today (Friday).
The 100-metre white A-frame structure will form the focal point of the New Wear Crossing and an exclusion zone will be in place to control an expected large crowd.
Sergeant Mark Boustead, of Northumbria Police’s Operations Department, said: “The public need to know that if we identify them as flying a drone in this area they could be prosecuted.
“Not only could flying drones in the area affect the installation of the centrepiece, but it could put members of the public in the area at risk.”
The lift of the 1550-tonne pylon, which is equivalent in weight to 125 double decker buses, will be the biggest operation of its type since the London Eye was raised in 1999. The structure is twice the height of Nelson’s Column and bigger than Big Ben’s clock tower.
“This new bridge is going to bring great things to Sunderland, and the raising of the pylon symbolises the beginning of that,” said Councillor Paul Watson, the leader of Sunderland City Council.
“The bridge will enable land along the south banks of the river to be regenerated, it will attract investment into Sunderland, and with that will come new jobs, too. The pylon is being raised this week, and so too are our ambitions for this great city.”
In the lead-up to the lift the pylon has been connected to two 8-m tusk-like structures built into the riverbed foundations to support the A-frame in its final position.
A temporary backmast has been attached to the pylon and connected to four strand jacks anchored 30-m into the ground on the south embankment. Together they will pull the pylon into position.
“We have been working towards this point since we broke ground on the project 20 months ago, so I think we are all looking forward to seeing the centrepiece take its final position over the river,” said Stephen McCaffrey, project director for the Farrans Victor Buyck joint venture building the project.
He added: “Lifting something of this weight and size is complex and takes a lot of planning and expertise. This operation has been calculated to the millimetre, so it will be very slow and measured – it cannot be rushed. There have been a lot of things to get in place, and we also needed the right weather window, but we are ready.
“Engineering achievements of this scale don’t happen very often, so I think it will be quite something for people to watch – even for us working on the project. It will take at least 24 hours to complete, so hopefully people will have a chance to see it.”
The bridge is scheduled to open next year.