13 October 2022

Pivotal moment as beams for new £3.8 million Gairnshiel Bridge are lifted into place

Construction of Aberdeenshire Council’s new £3.8 million Gairnshiel Bridge by Wills Bros Civil Engineering Ltd on Royal Deeside took a massive step forward today (Thurs).

The two main bridge deck beams – each weighing an impressive 100 tonnes - were lifted into place using a Liebherr LG 1550 mobile crane which took two days to build on site.

Supported by around 14 articulated delivery vehicles, once assembled the 550-tonne capacity crane delicately lifted the beams onto the bridge’s temporary bearings where they were locked in place to allow for deck construction of the bridge itself.

A group of Primary 6 and 7 pupils from nearby Ballater Primary School enjoyed a front seat view of the lift as they were given special access to a safe viewing area alongside local councillors.

The school, together with Crathie and Strathdon primaries, will all be receiving a special K’Nex bridge building kit from Wills Bros to ignite their interest and inspire potential young engineers of the future!

Several weeks earlier, six sections of the existing A939 route between Torbeg and Gairnshiel Bridge were surveyed and a new alignment designed by Wills Bros to ensure the crane could safely navigate to the site.

Bridges Manager at Aberdeenshire Council, Donald MacPherson, said: “Today was certainly a key moment in the construction of the new Gairnshiel Bridge and our thanks go to all who were involved in completing the installation safely. This new structure will ensure local residents and visitors alike can continue to enjoy the delights the area has to offer while providing improved journey times and reliability.”

Jonathan Wills, Director of Wills Bros Civil Engineering Ltd, added: “We are delighted to be delivering this important project on behalf of Aberdeenshire Council. The placement of these two huge bridge beams marks a key milestone in this much anticipated project which, when complete, will benefit both the local community and visitors to the area. We were pleased to welcome the Primary 6 and 7 pupils from Ballater Primary School and are looking forward to visiting pupils from the nearby Crathie and Strathdon primary schools. We would also like to take the opportunity to thank the surrounding communities and the travelling public for their ongoing cooperation and patience during these works.”

The architecture of the bridge has been designed by local architects Moxon of Crathie near Braemar, with Arcadis of Edinburgh playing a key role in the civil and structural design.

Moxon’s Managing Director Ben Addy said: “After a seven-year long journey of advocacy for the new bridge, feasibility studies, design and now construction, seeing the weathering steel beams lifted into place signifies a vital step towards the bridge’s completion. The new crossing will divert highway traffic away from the original Gairnshiel Bridge, one of the most important and beautiful historic structures in the area, preserving it for years to come, while providing a crucial link for road users between Deeside and Speyside.

“The design of the new bridge responds to three key considerations: the river flood levels; the low alignment of the highway; and the desire to create a sculptural yet robust form, using locally sourced granite, that responds to the natural formation of the glen while complementing the 18th Century structure.”

Overall project management and design-checking, technical and planning development as well as construction supervision and contract administration is being undertaken in-house by Aberdeenshire Council’s Bridge Team.

The existing Grade A-listed structure – built in the mid-1700s – is no longer suitable for modern day traffic and with ever-increasing volumes of vehicles and larger, heavier loads, the bridge has suffered significant damage over many years. However this ‘faithful old servant’ will be retained for use by non-motorised users.
Its new downstream replacement will have two lanes of traffic and will be capable of carrying large goods vehicles.