Corporation Bridge will no longer reopen in December 2023 after its condition has been found to be much more severe than originally expected.
Multi-disciplinary bridge works specialist Spencer Group was appointed contractor for the works in November 2022, with works starting on site in February 2023.
As works have progressed, further damage and deterioration has been unveiled by the contractor, with the beams underneath found to be in a much worse, corroded condition than initially projected.
Spencer Group, Equans and North East Lincolnshire Council (NELC) understand the frustration this news may have on people, but urge the public to remember the significance of these major works to safeguard this vital structure in the town for many years to come.
“Corporation Bridge is a rare surviving historic gem in Grimsby’s town centre, a notable heritage asset that reflects Grimsby’s status as one of the UK’s foremost port towns,” says Louise Brennan, regional director from Historic England (Midlands), who support the restoration works. “Its importance is reflected in its Grade II listed status – and as the bridge approaches its centenary, we wholly support the Council’s decision to invest in its repair to ensure that it will serve Grimsby for another 100 years and beyond.”
Speaking of the condition of the bridge, a Spencer Group representative explained: “We are in the process of grit blasting the bridge to reveal the bare steel work, in preparation for painting. The process has revealed that the bridge is in a significantly worse condition underneath than initially indicated in the tender inspection report carried out. Recent inspections of areas of steelwork not previously visible without scaffolding has identified significant areas of rusting and corrosion to the steelwork on the underside of the structure. We have therefore started a more comprehensive inspection to assess the actual extent of the deterioration that may require unforeseen repairs or strengthening.”
They added: “The first stage of our assessment involves a thorough onsite inspection of all steelwork, particularly focusing on the substructure (under deck) areas. Following this, a comprehensive report will be written, which will facilitate a numerical evaluation to determine the bridge’s current capacity. Once this assessment is complete, we will proceed with the necessary design and manufacturing steps to ensure the bridge meets the required standards.”
Initial visual inspections were carried out by other contractors on the bridge in 2018 before the major restoration works commenced, which determined the scope for tender. However, only when full unrestricted access has been made available and the paintwork has been stripped and taken down to the bare steel has Spencer Group been able to fully understand the severity of the condition of span one. The environment is rough below the bridge and areas have been exposed to the elements over the many years. The watercourse is tidal and salt, which results in a very aggressive environment for the steel below deck level.
As a result, further surveys are required to establish the condition of the underside of the five other spans of the bridge. Only when the results of the detailed assessments have been returned and the condition established will Spencer Group, Equans and NELC be able to determine the extension in the programme required for the works, including a revised reopening date of the bridge to traffic. Further updates will be provided once there is a clearer understanding of timescales.
It must be noted the full extent of the severity of the deteriorated condition is not known at this time and the detailed assessments will give us the required information to progress safely and effectively. Before corroded beams are removed, the adjoining beams may also need to be temporarily supported. Some areas may be repaired rather than replaced, but the assessment and any subsequent design works will provide this information.
As part of its Grade II listed heritage status, it is important the bridge remains functioning and the mechanics are in full operation to ensure the council is satisfying the statutory obligations.
As a Grade II listed structure, it is said to be of ‘notable architectural or historical interest or importance which is protected by law against undesirable changes, Planning Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas Act 1990’. With this in mind, it is appropriate and right to repair and restore every element of the bridge’s structure. The council is legally obligated by an Act of Parliament to make sure the bridge remains functioning, and the mechanics are in full operation – this includes the lifting mechanism.
As well as being supported by Historic England, the major restoration project also has the backing of the Grimsby, Cleethorpes and District Civic Society.
“Corporation Road Bridge is an iconic structure, and a well-known feature in the town,” said Alan Nicholson, chair of the Grimsby, Cleethorpes & District Civic Society. “Its mechanism is a rare example of a lifting bridge, and it is an asset to the town. We are pleased to support this work to restore part of our industrial heritage.”
Councillor Stewart Swinburn, portfolio for environment and transport, added: “We understand an extension of works will not be welcomed by residents and businesses and appreciate the impact the closure may have. However, it is vital we maintain and protect the bridge for the future and sadly, with such an old structure, unforeseen issues can arise, but we are acting on these.
“The bridge is a Grade II listed structure owned by North East Lincolnshire Council. It is on the ‘at risk’ register for listed structures due to its deteriorating condition. If left to deteriorate further, the bridge may become a barrier to future economic growth in the town, particularly if it has to be closed or weight limits imposed, which we want to avoid at all costs.
“The council, Equans and Spencer Group understand the frustration these ongoing major restoration works may have on people, but be assured, this is for a long-term gain and will see the bridge continue to be used for many years to come when works are complete.”
Funding from the Department for Transport (DfT) has been specifically ringfenced for these works, alongside Council capital spend and the Local Transport Fund.
To follow the progress of Corporation Bridge and view any updates, photos of videos, visit www.investnel.co.uk/corporation-bridge.