17 May 2014

Tyneside Bridges: 8. Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge

Heading further west along the Tyne, we came to a group of three bridges which are considerably less well known than those in the immediate centre of Newcastle and Gateshead.

Designed by WA Fairhurst and Partners, and built by Cleveland Bridge, the Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge opened in 1981. It was built to carry the Tyne and Wear Metro, the first major modern light rail system in the UK. With a main span of 168m, I think it's probably the longest spanning light rail bridge in the country. It's also the longest span over the Tyne (the Tyne Bridge is 162m, while Redheugh Bridge reaches 160m).

In form, the bridge is a three-span continuous through truss girder bridge, although it was constructed as two balanced cantilevers. It's a striking, impressive structure, but I don't find it beautiful.

Perhaps its most interesting feature is the paint scheme. The bridge was not originally blue, but was repainted in 2006 in its present white and blue colours. At the same time, 140 lights were installed as part of artist Nayan Kulkarni's Nocturne artwork, which projects changing colour patterns onto the bridge at night.

Whatever it may look like at night, the effect is interesting in the day time. The "inner" parts of the truss members are painted white, and the effect is to make the truss members appear more slender than they really are. At first I found the effect quite disorientating.

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