Their Royal Highnesses William and Kate were officially driven across the new bridge when they visited the construction site as part of a visit to the city.
During their visit, both Prince William and the Duchess helped to put one of the finishing touches to the railings of the bridge by using a wrench to tighten one of the bolts fixing the handrail in place.
Northern Spire, which SNC-Lavalin’s Faithful+Gould business is delivering project management, cost management and health and safety services, is the first bridge to be built across the River Wear in Sunderland for more than 40 years and is on track to open this spring after three years of construction.
You can watch the construction process here in: Northern Spire – Story So Far.
While at the site, Prince William and the Duchess met workers involved in Northern Spire’s design and construction before officially crossing the 346m bridge deck.
Duncan Ross Russell, Faithful+Gould’s project management lead for the bridge, said he was delighted to meet and welcome the Duke and Duchess to the construction site: “It’s an exciting time for everyone involved with Northern Spire. We’re already incredibly proud to be working on such a prestigious project, one which will connect communities and create opportunities for major new development and growth within the north east; this royal visit is the jewel in the crown. It is something we will probably all remember for a very long time.
“It’s been an immense construction project, complex and challenging at times, but we are very close to completion now; the end is in sight so people won’t have to wait too long before they can travel across this fabulous new bridge.”
The new Northern Spire bridge is the biggest civil engineering project in the North East. It features an impressive 105m central A-frame pylon, which is twice the height of Nelson’s Column and taller than Big Ben’s clock tower. On completion, around 2,000 people will have worked on the project over about 900,000 man-hours.
Speaking after the visit, the Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Doris MacKnight, said: "It was wonderful to meet the Duke and Duchess; the Duke takes a keen interest in engineering and they both seemed really interested in the bridge and the story behind it.
"They also spent quite a bit of time talking to some of the people who have been instrumental in its design and construction over the last three years.”
She added: "This is a project that's of massive significance to everyone in Sunderland and across the North East, bringing with it significant economic, regeneration and transport benefits to our city and the wider region.
"This is the first bridge to be built over the River Wear for 40 years and it's a project that has really captured people's imagination, so it means a great deal to have the Duke and Duchess here taking such a keen interest in the project and all those involved."
Part of the Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor, Northern Spire will link the International Advanced Manufacturing Park on the A19, which is being developed as an internationally-recognised destination for advanced manufacturing, with Sunderland city centre and the Port of Sunderland.
It will open up swathes of land along the banks of the River Wear for future investment and regeneration, helping to create up to 6,000 jobs along the riverside corridor and boosting the local and regional economy.
It will also reduce congestion around the city, improve journey times, and be a source of pride and inspiration for Sunderland’s future generations.