Rope-access enables defect inspection of historic Union Chain Bridge
The Union Chain Bridge is 450 ft of engineering brilliance: the 200-year-old, wrought-iron, chain-suspension structure spans the River Tweed and links Berwickshire in Scotland to Northumberland in England. When it opened in 1820, it held the title of the longest wrought-iron suspension bridge in the world with its impressive span of 137 m. It is now listed as a Category A building in Scotland and a Grade 1 building in England. It was also the first suspension bridge in Europe to carry wheeled traffic. When a landslide necessitated its closure in 2008 and the local council did not have the funds to repair it, the local community began a campaign to restore the structure to its original splendour and ensure its longevity.
Northumberland County Council hired engineering specialist CAN, an RSK company, to inspect the structure for defects. The report would inform the council’s request for National Lottery funding for the refurbishment. The bridge is a single-span structure positioned high above the river, so CAN sent a team of four rope-access specialists who were able to access the challenging location. Over three weeks, the engineers noted hundreds of defects and wrote a detailed report outlining a repair schedule, thereby ensuring that the council had the information to inform the renovation work.
The information provided by CAN’s specialist engineers enabled the project to obtain financial contributions from the Scottish Borders Council, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Northumberland City Council. With sufficient funding, work began in October 2020. The route will remain closed for 18 months.
It is hoped that the renovation and reopening of the historic structure will strengthen the connections between communities in the Scottish Borders and Northumberland. With the future of the local landmark secured, it will remain in use and be preserved for future generations.