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The BBC's John Thorne
"The Millennium Bridge is the first in the world to open like an eyelid"
 real 56k

Monday, 20 November, 2000, 12:39 GMT
Millennium bridge reaches destination

A radical design of tilting bridge has reached its final destination on the river Tyne after 10 days of delays caused by bad weather.

The complex operation to move the Gateshead Millennium Bridge had been due to start again on Sunday, but high winds forced a postponement.

The world's largest floating crane, Asian Hercules II, was used to carry the bridge six miles up-river from the AMEC construction yard in Wallsend.

Thousands of people lined both sides of the river to witness the giant structure's two-hour journey.

The bridge was finally manoeuvred into place at about 0930GMT with the help of two tugs taking advantage of a high tide.

Crane and bridge
The crane used to move the bridge is taller than Big Ben
The 22m structure is to span the River Tyne between Gateshead Quays and neighbouring Newcastle's quayside.

It is scheduled to open in summer 2001.

The design of the structure allows it to rotate in an "eye blinking" movement to allow boats to pass underneath.

Each opening or closing will take just four minutes.

A series of steel piles in the river are designed to prevent the bridge being hit and it can withstand a collision from a 4,000 tonne ship travelling at four knots.

Landmark

The design incorporates a pair of steel arches, one as the deck for pedestrians and cyclists and the other supporting the bridge by suspension cables.

The floating crane used to move the bridge is taller than Big Ben and the operation to lift it was said to be the largest of its kind in the world.

The 850-tonne steel bridge will be positioned several hundred yards downstream of the famous Tyne Bridge.

The bridge's organisers secured a 9.2m grant from the Millennium Commission towards the cost.

Bridge facts
Each opening costs 3.60
Opening takes four minutes
Eight electric motors produce 589 horse power
Bridge features on a new stamp
Weighs more than 850 tonnes
Gateshead Council leader George Gill said the bridge would become a world famous landmark.

"The sight of this massive crane lowering the bridge into place will be a major feat of engineering," he said.

"It will be one of those historic occasions people will be able to tell their grandchildren about.

"The Gateshead Millennium Bridge will instantly become a world famous landmark symbol, which shows the vision we have in this region."

Millennium projects have not had a good track record.

The Millennium Dome in London had to be bailed out with millions of pounds as it failed to meet visitor estimates.

London's "blade of light" Millennium Bridge closed within just three days of opening after the footfall of pedestrians caused the structure to sway excessively.

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