There has been a crossing over the River Medway at Rochester since Roman times, providing an important strategic link between London and the south east. Today, these infrastructure connections are more important than ever, with over 30,000 vehicles travelling over Rochester Bridge every single day. The current crossing is made up of three structures: the Grade II listed Old Bridge; the New Bridge, which was opened in the 1970’s to increase capacity; and a Service Bridge carrying water, gas, electricity and telecommunications. These need to be kept in good condition to ensure traffic can continue to run safely and efficiently. But with several important repairs due, the Rochester Bridge Trust needed a team that could carry out the works, all while minimising disruption and respecting the heritage of the structure.
Acting as lead consultant, we worked with the Trust in the management of Rochester Bridge, including planning and delivering routine maintenance, repairs, and improvements to provide safe, secure, and sustainable passage across the River Medway for the travelling public.
The latest round of major repair and refurbishment works to Rochester Bridge included replacing expansion joints, resurfacing the bridge decks, repairing steelwork, adding new lighting and seating, and improving drainage.
As Project Manager, we were the first point of contact between the Trust and the contractor responsible for the works. One of the key responsibilities here was to ensure that the programme of works was planned to minimise any impact on the people who depend on this critical highway to cross the river.
Work was therefore carried out in phases to minimise disruption. We started on the New Bridge first, then the Service Bridge in the middle. These works had to be completed before a full renovation could begin on the historic Old Bridge. Much of the work was done at night when traffic was minimal, but we also put in place a traffic management plan to ensure that the Old and New Bridge could be used as complementary carriageways while work was underway.
To give an example of how this worked in practice; while the New Bridge was being resurfaced the pedestrian footway was removed and used for vehicular traffic instead. This meant that two lanes of vehicles could still flow freely, while pedestrians were safely diverted away from the works and onto the Old Bridge instead.
When it came to work on the Old Bridge, we were aware that it was a complicated structure with elements dating from different periods. This posed a number of additional engineering challenges, and so the client prioritised early consultation between council planning officers and engineering specialists to ensure that the refurbishment would preserve or enhance heritage features.
As a result of the works, the condition of the bridge has been significantly improved for many years to come, safely linking local communities with jobs, homes, and leisure opportunities either side of the river, and bringing important economic benefits to the area. The collaborative approach to listed building consents meant that both the heritage and function of the bridges could be preserved and enhanced through the refurbishment works, all while minimising disruption for the benefit of the travelling public.
The project was awarded Transport Project of the Year at the 2021 British Construction Industry Awards. It has also received a Bridges Award 2021, in the New Life for Projects over £5m category, and was shortlisted for a People’s Choice Award by The Institution of Civil Engineers, as an example of the positive impact civil engineering can have on local communities.