Mersey Gateway machine named by local schoolchildren
Schoolchildren from Halton have named a giant machine that is going to build a key part of the new Mersey Gateway bridge.
Lunt’s Heath Primary School in Widnes won a competition to name Merseylink’s new Movable Scaffold System (MSS), which will be constructing the south elevated approach viaduct in Runcorn.
Pupils and teachers joined construction teams on site today for a special ceremony where the huge red machine was officially named ‘Webster’.
Lunt’s Heath Primary School pupils Mia Harding (L) and Anastacia Murphy (R) on site with ‘Webster’, Runcorn’s new bridge building machine
The name was chosen by the schoolchildren in memory of John James Webster, a civil engineer from Warrington, who designed and built the old Widnes Transporter Bridge.
Construction joint venture Merseylink invited primary schools from across the borough to take part in the competition to name the machine.
Many names were submitted including Destiny, Optimus, Infinity, Horizon, Transformer and Goliath, however Webster proved to be a firm favourite with the project team due to its unique local connection.
Teacher, Jill Irlam, said: “The children had been studying the bridge and the River Mersey and were asked to suggest as name as part of their English homework. The whole year group really engaged with the bridge topic last term and were all very pleased when they heard we had won the competition, they all cheered when it was announced.”
Year 6 pupils Anastacia Murphy and Mia Harding, both aged 10, attended the naming ceremony alongside headteacher Andy Williams and class teacher Sue Pugh.
Anastacia, who submitted Webster as the winning entry, said: “I was shocked and amazed that my name had been chosen.”
Mia said: “The new bridge is fantastic and it’s really exciting to see the new machine and bridge close up.”
New MSS Webster is the same specification as Trinity, the orange machine that is currently building the north approach viaduct in Widnes.
Both measure an impressive 157m long – the length of around one and a half football pitches – 8m high and 22m across at their widest point. And at 1700 tonnes, the steel structures each weigh the equivalent of 140 double decker buses.
The machines act as giant concrete moulds for the roadway or ‘deck’ of the approach viaducts. They are locked onto the bridge piers and concrete is poured into the mould to cast a deck span, then the equipment moves along to cast the next span.
See how the MSS machines operate:
While most Movable Scaffold Systems of this kind can only build bridge spans of up to 60 metres, the two machines for the Mersey Gateway bridge have been specially made so they can cast spans of up to 70 metres.
Webster was assembled approximately 12.5m above the ground around the first pier of the south approach viaduct, involving the project’s biggest ever crane lift to hoist the two main girder sections into position.
Teams are now getting the machine ready to build the south approach viaduct, which will span across the Manchester Ship Canal and the saltmarsh, connecting Runcorn’s main road network to the new bridge.
Hugh O’Connor, General Manager of Merseylink, said: “This is a very exciting and historic time, especially for local children who are growing up with the bridge, so we thought it would be great to get Halton’s schools involved. We’ve had some fantastic competition entries, but with such a special local engineering connection, Webster was the clear winner.”
Councillor Rob Polhill, Leader of Halton Borough Council, said: “Webster is a great name for the new MSS as it really captures the borough’s engineering legacy, noting its past while highlighting innovative technology of the present. The new MSS is a remarkable feat of engineering and I look forward to seeing it launched across the Manchester Ship Canal to construct the south approach to the new bridge.”
The 1,000 metre long Mersey Gateway Bridge is the centerpiece of the Mersey Gateway Project, which covers around nine kilometres of road improvements and a series of major new junctions running throughout Runcorn and Widnes.
The new bridge is on track to open in the autumn of 2017.