Bernera Bridge edges closer to its completion

Construction of the replacement Bernera Bridge is now well under way with late September the new target date for full installation, according to project manager for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Angus Gillies.

Friday, 20th August 2021, 12:40 pm
Construction on the Bernera Bridge is progressing well

He said: "Don't hold me to this but the estimate is for the bridge to be installed by 23rd September with civils work completed by 20th November".

The existing bridge, which opened back in 1953, is currently subject to a 7.5 tonnes weight restriction following structural faults being uncovered last December.

Mr Gillies explained that the method for constructing the 99-metre, single-span Maybey Delta Bridge is via a launch sequence which involves panels on the Earshader side being lifted into place at the rear of the bridge and, once fully braced and connected at splice points, launched forward using a winch pulley system.

For all with an interest in engineering techniques, the steady advance of the bridge by this method towards the Bernera side makes a fascinating sight.

The “floor” of the new bridge will be formed from coated steel deck panels which will carry a 3.15 metre wide road and metre-wide footpath.

The Mabey bridge design was selected because the construction method alleviates the need for intermediate piers, allowing quicker, easier installation than alternatives – a significant advantage in time-critical projects such as Bernera. This is the first Delta Bridge to be installed in Scotland.

It is all a far cry from construction of the existing bridge which was regarded as a major breakthrough for civil engineering in the UK – the first example of a bridge made of pre-stressed concrete girders in the country.

Thousands of people gathered in July 1953 for the opening of the £70,000 structure with estimates of the crowd varying from 2,000 to 4,000.

The Gazette reported: 'On that day Bernera ceased to be an island and became part of Lewis – or perhaps it would be more accurate to say Lewis ceased to be an island and became part of Bernera – one of the largest crowds ever assembled in Lewis, in Stornoway or out of it, swarmed across the bridge behind the official party to explore a land hitherto unknown to most of them’.