Bridge works specialist Spencer Group has further strengthened its credentials after being selected to revitalise an historic crossing ahead of the structure’s 200th anniversary year.
Spencer Group, which has carried out maintenance and repair works on some of the UK’s most iconic bridges, has been awarded a series of contracts for further major refurbishment works on the Menai Suspension Bridge as it approaches its bicentenary in 2026.
The Grade I listed structure is the second oldest operational vehicular suspension bridge in the world. Opened in 1826, it crosses the Menai Strait between the island of Anglesey and mainland North Wales.
The primary focus of the work includes a £1.5m restoration project to repaint the entire main span underdeck of the 417m-long bridge.
Working on behalf of client UK Highways A55 Ltd, Hull-based Spencer Group has designed bespoke moving gantry platforms to enable its team to access the currently unreachable main span underdeck in order to shotblast, inspect and repaint the area.
The works will begin once designs are complete and environmental approvals have been granted, as the Menai Strait is protected as a Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a wetland area of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
In addition, Spencer Group has been appointed to strengthen the handrails of the pedestrian walkways on the approach spans to both sides of the bridge.
Early designs and trials are underway as the team works with heritage organisations to ensure designs meet requirements in keeping with a Grade I listed structure. The works are targeted to be complete by late 2022.
A further project will see Spencer Group replace the majority of the vertical road deck hangers, which suspend the deck from the main chains of the bridge.
Due to run throughout summer 2023, the project is in the early design stages as the Spencer Group team assesses various methods for hanger replacement and off-site manufacture of specialist components.
A fourth project will involve Spencer Group upgrading and improving the bridge’s street and decorative lighting, installing a more modern, efficient and environmentally friendly LED system.
Survey work for the scheme was completed earlier this year and Spencer Group trialled illuminating the Anglesey arch of the bridge, with UK Highways A55 Ltd inviting key stakeholders and members of the local community to view the lighting and share their feedback.
Spencer Group is now working with UK Highways A55 Ltd to develop and agree the final specification for the lighting project, which will begin later this year. While a completion date has yet to be agreed, the light installation phase will begin in 2023.
The latest contract wins come after Spencer Group successfully completed a project to remove, replace and then resurface the footway panels on the approach spans on both sides of the bridge.
Luke Fisher, Sector Lead for Bridges and Structures at Spencer Group, said:
“We’re delighted to play a significant part in preparing the Menai Suspension Bridge for its 200th anniversary, supporting UK Highways A55 Ltd and their client, the Welsh Government, to ensure this remarkable structure looks its best for its bicentenary year and beyond.
“UK Highways A55 Ltd identified that the bridge is suffering from corrosion and needs repainting. For the underdeck painting scheme, we designed the moving gantry platforms, which are unique to this project, and our industry-leading capabilities in this sector formed a significant part of the bid.
“We’re proud to have been awarded these contracts and to be given the opportunity to further demonstrate our ability to find innovative solutions to complex challenges of this nature.
“We’re also supporting the Menai Heritage Museum in Anglesey to raise awareness of both bridges over the Menai Strait, as well as the importance of civil engineering among local school pupils and college students. We’re giving talks and leading bridge walks to inspire the next generation.”
Spencer Group also facilitated a successful visit from Ed McCann, President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), and Deborah Sims, former President of the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT), to the Menai Suspension Bridge in July, enabling positive discussions about the current projects and the history of the bridge.
Kerry Evans, Operations Manager for UK Highways A55 Ltd, said:
“As we prepare for the 200th anniversary of this magnificent structure, a series of major maintenance projects are in development.
“UK Highways A55 Ltd is looking forward to working with the team at Spencer Group again as we embark on the underdeck painting works and the replacement hanger project.”