Newport City Footbridge

Newport Unlimited was an urban regeneration company established by Newport City Council and the Welsh Assembly Government. Their city centre masterplan identified the need for improved pedestrian access to the city centre. The Newport City Footbridge plays a critical part in the city's accessibility strategy, linking the east and west banks of the River Usk, allowing people to travel quickly and safely between the two. The Newport City Footbridge bridge design was selected in consultation with the local community and through competition promoted in the local daily newspaper, the South Wales Argus. The £5 million bridge was the first stage in Newport's vision for the creation of a cultural left bank district as a home for the arts and education, a strengthened commercial city centre core with improved retail, business and living opportunities, improved transport systems - including new roads and the renovation of the railway station - plus new housing developments and the creation of riverside walkways and green public spaces. The bridge was the first built element of the master-plan, so it was important for it to be a landmark structure as powerful evidence that the regeneration of the city is underway. Both banks of the River Usk have a history of industrial use that declined over the course of the twentieth century. The bridge is located between two older road bridges, approximately 1km apart, immediately to the east of the commercial centre of Newport. The River Usk flows into the Severn Estuary and has a large tidal range at this point. The river is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. It contains protected fish species and otters and is edged with sensitive salt marsh maritime flora.
Planning and Design

Planning and Design Process

Historic context

The bridge's dramatic crane structure provides a symbolic link to the site's earlier use as a trading wharf. It is also a prominent feature of the city skyline, drawing attention to the river that is hidden from much of the city centre.

Urban form

Placing the main supports on the west bank also reflects the pronounced change in the urban scale and grain from the commercial heart of the city on the man-made west bank, to the domestic uses and soft landscape on the east side. The deliberate concentration of major structures on the west bank has many practical advantages. The vast majority of temporary and permanent works were kept away from the nearby dwellings on the east bank. Construction work was simplified, with no requirement for any works on the tidal riverbed and avoiding impact on the local river ecology. The existing car park on the west bank also provided an ideal construction site for final assembly of the structural components before installation.

Structure

The primary supporting structure is of four masts, standing in pairs, which support the 145-metre long bridge deck from the west bank. The bridge deck loads are transferred to ground level by two 120mm diameter cables which also act as stays for the masts. The deck is five metres wide and 4.1 metres above water at mean high tide level.

Construction

Atkins and Alfred McAlpine created a lifting and construction sequence which ensured the spectacular masts could be jacked safely into place.  The masts were installed in pre-connected pairs, followed by the bridge deck in five elements corresponding to the cable stay support pattern. Final connections to each riverbank were achieved with two pre-cast concrete abutment units.

Materials

In addition to the structural steel, the bridge includes nearly three kilometres of stainless steel wire.  With a load bearing capacity to carry 2,000 people, the structure includes 20 tonnes of dampers to prevent vertical and lateral oscillation. The masts are constructed from rolled and welded sheet steel and ‘fixed’ in mountings with 450mm long stainless steel pins weighing 500kg each. The bridge has a design life of 120 years.

Sustainability Outcomes

Ecology

The River Usk is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. Listed for its flora and fauna, the Usk contains protected fish species, and otters and is edged with sensitive salt marsh maritime flora. Therefore the bridge had to avoid damage to the local river ecology.

Habitat protection

A key early design decision was to avoid the installation of any temporary works in the river. This not only combated safety risks but also avoided damage to the wildlife habitat. It was also important to minimise expenditure on temporary works to maximise the budget available for permanent works. This strategic decision immediately ruled out an arch and led to an exploration of masted and cable-stayed structures.

Design and Construction Information

Client: Newport Unlimited on behalf of Welsh Assembly Government

Architect: Grimshaw

Date of Completion: September 2006

Contract value: £4.9m

Awards: Institute of Civil Engineers George Gibby Award, Structural Steel Design Award

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