Page last updated at 13:36 GMT, Wednesday, 8 April 2009 14:36 UK

Peace bridge city symbol of hope

An artist's impression of the new footbridge by night
An artist's impression of the new footbridge by night

Freya McClements
BBC News

The physical, symbolic and emotional union of both sides of the city, and the economic regeneration of an entire area... just some of the hopes invested in the River Foyle's 'Peace Bridge'.

The £13.3m project will link the former Ebrington barracks site on the Waterside to the Guildhall Square on the Cityside.

The winning design - an S-shaped footbridge supported by two curved suspension structures linked to the opposite bank - was unveiled in Londonderry on Wednesday.

It is hoped the bridge will be the focus for not only major regeneration of the area, but the symbolic union of what was once a divided city.

Brenda Fraser from Ilex, the company charged with the economic regeneration of Derry, said these hopes were built into the bridge's design.

"The bridge is conceived as two distinct structural systems that work in harmony.

"It's a pair of identical curved suspension structures, each allied to opposing banks in a fluid arrangement.

"At the middle of the river the two structural systems don't just touch, they overlap, boldly interacting to create a single unified crossing.

The architect behind the project, James Marks, explains the concept

"It's a structural handshake across the Foyle and an embrace at the centre of the river," she said.

The Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, who was at the launch, said it was the biggest single regeneration project in the city since the construction of the Foyle Bridge 30 years ago.

"This bridge can be a significant catalyst for change.

"It will transform our beautiful city and help transform the local community in the widest sense.

"When completed, the bridge will become a new regional landmark.

"It will be a symbol of a new beginning here in Derry City, creating a legacy for future generations," said Mr McGuinness.

"Of course, it's also important for the citizens of this city to see practical steps being taken and to see that the infrastructure is being put in place."

Work on the bridge is due to begin in September, with completion scheduled for October 2010.

Artist's impression of the footbridge across the Foyle
The bridge will link Ebrington to Guildhall Square

The social development minister, Margaret Ritchie, said it would bring practical benefits to the people of Derry.

"There has been a need, and the recognition of that need, to both reintegrate the city centre as a whole with the river and to reinvigorate that centre.

"This new foot and cycle bridge will encourage all the citizens of Derry to have a sense of pride in their city and, just as importantly, to move safely through it.

"This, therefore, is bridge-building in both its literal and symbolic sense."

The head of the city's Chamber of Commerce, Jim Sammon, was equally optimistic.

"This is one of the biggest infrastructural investments in our city in recent times, and coming when it does it's physical proof of a commitment and a confidence in the development of Derry as a city and a region.

"It shows Derry is building, Derry is again building for the future."

High hopes, but can a footbridge deliver such positive results?

The mayor of Derry, Gerard Diver, believes it can.

"It may be just a bridge, but the symbolism of it won't be lost on people in terms of what it means.

"There is a real sense that this is a city that's going somewhere, that's developing, that's pulling itself up by its bootstraps.

"When you look at that artist's impression we're going to end up with something fairly amazing."

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