The Millennium Bridge in Gateshead is the world’s first and only tilting bridge. It is remarkable both as a piece of engineering and as an example of how the North East of England has been reinventing itself as a tourist destination.
This tilt-bridge is a pedestrian and cyclist connection spanning the River Tyne. It is situated between Gateshead’s Quays in the arts quarter on the south bank and the Quayside of Newcastle Upon Tyne located on the north bank.
The Millennium Bridge was designed by, architects Wilkinson Eyre in London and structural engineers, Gifford. Lifted into place all in one piece, in November 2000, by Asian Hercules II, one of the world’s largest floating cranes, it was opened to the public during September 2001.
In 2002, it was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II. Costing £22 million to build, the bridge was funded jointly by the Millennium Commission and European Regional Development Fund and was constructed by civil engineering company Volker Stevin.
Hydraulic rams rotate and operate the bridge allowing boats and ships to pass underneath. Depending upon the wind speed, it takes the bridge less than five minutes to rotate thorough a full 40 degree turn. The image it produces during this rotation gives the bridge the nickname of the ‘Blinking Eye Bridge.’
In 2002, Wilkinson Eyre won the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize for their design and in 2003, Gifford, was presented with the IStructE Supreme Award, afforded to structural engineers.
In 2005, the Millennium Bridge, received an ‘Outstanding Structure Award’ from the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABSE).
A picture of the bridge featured on a first class stamp in 2000 and when it was tilted for the very first time in June 2001. Some 36,000 people lined the banks of the River Tyne to see this spectacular operation. The bridge has enough steel in its structure to make 64 double decker buses and 16 Chieftain Tanks. Interestingly, the bridge has a unique way of keeping itself free from litter. Each time it opens any litter is automatically sent into special traps at each end of the bridge where it can be removed.
Weighing more than 800 tonnes it can withstand a collision from a ship weighing 4,000 tonnes, travelling at 4 knots (approximately, just over 4mph).
The bridge has appeared in a number of TV, film and media productions and has been used in publications including on the front cover of Bentley magazine. In 2007, it appeared on a new pound coin from the Royal Mint representing England.
It was received with great enthusiasm and praise by both MPs and local people with comments like, ‘It’s simple and straightforward and doesn’t detract from the Tyne Bridge.’ The former Prime Minister Tony Blair who was also an MP for a North East constituency has described the bridge as one of the most spectacular sights in Europe.
Whilst it is tilted as a practical measure to allow ships to pass underneath, it is also activated at various to demonstrate the remarkable mechanism to tourists. Timings of these movements can be found online.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
B6320 (Rd), Bellingham, Hexham
Northumberland, England, NE48 2JY
+44 (0)1434 220 175
- Address: Baltic Square, South Shore Road, Gateshead, Tyne & Wear, England, UK, NE8 3BA
- GPS: 54.96954325921123,-1.599565160327188
- Phone: 0044 (0)1914 784 222
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: NE8 3BA
- Entrance Fees: Free Access
- Disabled Access: Excellent
- Visibility from Road: Excellent
- Image Credits: Shaun Dodds