Cycle bridge to rival Brunel picks up major national award
A stunning new Devon bridge echoing the engineering brilliance of Brunel has won a prestigious national award.
The £2.1million Gem Bridge, on Drake’s Trail – named after the buccaneering Sir Francis Drake, whose Buckland Abbey home is nearby on Dartmoor - has been named civil engineering project of the year (under £3million) at the British Construction Industry Awards.
Spanning 200 metres, the innovative steel structure was completed last year by Exeter-based Dawnus Construction and will carry cyclists 24metres above the steep-sided Walkham Valley.
It stands in the valley where Brunel's original 1859 300metre Walkham Viaduct stood before it was demolished as part of the Beeching cuts of the 1960s.
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The new 200-metre long bridge is 24metres high, or the equivalent height of five double-decker buses stacked on top of each other.
It is on the route of the Velodyssey, a 265-mile (440km) cross-Channel cycle link that will eventually stretch 870 miles (1,400km), from Ilfracombe in through Brittany to the border with Spain.
The judges said: “The coherent and mutually supportive team rose to the challenges, working together to find the best and safest construction techniques and modifying the design accordingly.”
Councillor Stuart Hughes, county council cabinet member for highways, said: “It pays tribute to Brunel’s original structure and is sympathetic to the historic and environmental importance of the site in Dartmoor National Park.”
Philip Sanders, county councillor for Yelverton Rural, added: “It was a major challenge to design something which was functional but respected the natural beauty of the area and the bridge fits perfectly into the environment whilst providing a practical facility which is extensively used by the public.”
Town Quay Bridge at Newton Abbot has also been shortlisted in the Pedestrian Footbridge category of the Structural Awards 2013, organised by the Institution of Structural Engineers. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in London next month.