The truth about Unity 3

Unity3 design

(Click here to view photo at full size)

You will be aware that opponents of the Cable-Stay Footbridge believe that an alternative bridge could have a graceful arch and would have “potential savings of £400,000”. We now more and can see that this is not true.

This montage will shock some people. It shows the Unity 3 bridge for the first time from the sort of angle from which people will really see it – bulky, obtrusive and right at eye-height from just one building’s length away. It was produced by the engineering firm employed by the Preservation Trust.

We also now know that the claims of £400,000 savings are not true. The Preservation Trust’s latest costing is £110,000 more than before. This is just the first of the cost problems. The surface of Unity 3 (we will not walk on bare-metal) has been paired to the bone. The Town Council could save 4 tons in weight on the Cable-Stay Bridge and therefore tens of thousands of pounds by doing the same, but there would be a risk that the surface would more quickly wear through to bare metal.

The Preservation Trust’s engineers are also note the risk of wobble – like the Millennium Bridge in London. This could be prevented with “damping”, but is likely to add tens of thousands to the cost – much more if it was done afterwards!

There would also be tens of thousands of pounds in design costs alone to iron out all the issues that Unity 3 has landing on the banks at an angle and with a gradient. Even the supporters montage on this site shows Unity 3 cutting a swathe across the footpath.

All this simply demonstrates to me that the logic and simple elegance of the Cable-Stay Bridge are right. Please Back the Bridge.

(Contributed by: Malcolm Hewson)


    • Now that the true ugliness of Unity3 has been revealed I can understand why the designer of this bridge wishes to remain anonymous.

    • It is a great pity there is no “click here” button to view the photograph in its original, (undoctored) format. Hard luck Malcolm, your tinkering with the image has been found out!
      “Oh what a tangled web we weave,
      When first we practise to deceive!”. Annette Seekings

    • That looks like the temporary steps up to an airplane! Really ugly. Can we stop wasting time & money and get on with the Cable-Stay bridge now?

    • It looks clunky and uninspiring. Let’s take the opportunity to do something that will be an asset to the town and not just the cheapest possible route from A to B.

    • Oh Dear! Malcolm Hewson seems to be suffering from Tunnel Vision. This is the image all the Councillors have just been given (link to PDF file). He has adapted it as you can now see. Please do pop over the Town Bridge and check how realistic the perspective is.I wonder why Cllr Hewson has chosen to mislead the people (who are paying for a bridge) in this way…?

    • For the record, I have doctored nothing. I have picked-out that part of the picture that shows the bridge as people will see it.
      see and see for yourselves what I have done.

    • While we are at it – if the bridge opponents think that original helps them, why have they not published it !

    • I for one am thoroughly fed up with all this posturing. Why has it taken so long to come up with this alternative anyway? I have looked at “the image all the Councillors have just been given” rather than Mr Hewson’s in an effort to be balanced and the best I can say is that it’s thoroughly uninspiring. Assuming opponents of the original design are looking at the cheapest alternative from A to B why don’t they go the whole hog and set up an aerial slide or better still vines slung from trees.

    • I’ve watched this whole process carefully from the very beginning and have tried hard to have a balanced view of the possibilities. It has become very clear now that this, as alternative to the cable-stay bridge, has finally materialised – and boy what a long time we’ve had to wait – and it clearly is not any sort of improvement. So the ‘spike’ of steel in the air has been replaced by a plank of steel across the river, that is patently a less attractive thing for us to have to look at every day.

      Please can we just get on with the original, approved, design!

    • How can this design be taken seriously? If you look closely at the left hand end, how do you get on and off the bridge, by jumping?

      Also, the right hand landing in front of the library cannot be seen at all, so we must assume no thought has been given to that either?

    • Carol is right in questioning the south bank landing which is not part of the planning permission for the MLD “spike” bridge. Therefore achieving a satisfactory design for the ramps in front of the library is yet to be done. Both bridges require piling – The “spike” bridge requires tension piling on the south side and both tension and compression on the north side; Unity 3 requires only compression piling on both north and south sides. Both bridges require concrete “landing” caps/pads – in the case of the “spike” a serious – and very expensive – concrete cap. However, Carol, be reassured, you will not need to jump off both bridges will be suitable for cycles, pedestrians, wheelchairs and baby buggies!

    • There is one set of plans that has received full approval by all the relevant authorities, plans for a bridge that is functional and that will add an exciting new dimension to our townscape. (And a far more beautiful piece of design, I have to say, than some of the bland new buildings going up on the site at the moment.) All this bickering is unbecoming of our town. Let’s just get on with erecting the cable-stay bridge, before it’s too late.

    • Public impatience is kicking in, as it did with Kingston Mills over-development, with disastrous results in terms of ‘town cramming’. Yes, it’s taken far too long to realise the enormity, complexity and extravagance of the cable-stayed design (which has still not passed its structural checks), and to come up with a more cost-effective, and less pretentious, intrusive and potentially wobbly solution, which complements rather than competes with its historic setting. Cable-stayed designs have been fashionable, and can be elegant (Mark Lovell’s smaller one in Frome sits well enough in its open context). But can anyone think of anything clumsier than the proposed massive mast with its rusty in-your-face base, as wide as a garage door, and the clunky back-stay anchors, 12 ft high, obstructing public space in Bridge Yard and the splendid view of refurbished Kingston House from the library and from the new bridge itself ? Please think in the round.

    • With regard to my good friend Malcolm Hewson’s comment above; true though that the current estimated cost-saving of the Unity beam bridge is down, due to compressing its profile to respect the prevailing tunnel vision about ‘transparency’ of the deck (and disregard of views from and along the deck), and the cost of the stylish radiating parapet which trumps the utilitarian cable-stayed deck, but is still saving £300,000 to be sniffed at? As for insufficient surface wear, Malcolm knew that had been corrected before he posted his accusation. His point about bridge stability is absurd, when cable-stayed designs are known to be the most wobbly, and box-beams the most sturdy. His suggestion that the Unity bridge would be more intrusive at the same landings as the cable-stayed design is the reverse of the case, quite apart from obstruction by the latter’s mast and anchors.

    • To answer Godfrey Marks Points:

      1. The Preservation Trust Montage makes deliberate use of a wide-angled lens. This is done to enable the Pres Trust to claim that the montage is taken from Town Bridge (it is), but at the same time to make Unity 3 look as far away as possible.

      2. The point about the surface still holds. I absolutely acknowledge that there was an error in the engineer’s report – which I have made nothing of in public. The real point is that the Cable-Stay bridge could be made 4-5 tons lighter, by reducing the surfacing to the same level as Unity 3. This would enable tens of thousands to be saved by lightening components. Perhaps is the right thing to do and I will see if the County Bridge Engineer will wear it – but it isn’t right to claim the savings for Unity 3.

      3. The Engineer’s report for Unity 3 specifically says that allowance should be made for damping. The issue with bridges (once they are strong enough) is not that they move – all bridges move. The issue is that some sorts of movement die away quickly and do not discomfort the user. Some movements resonate in such way that they make the bridge feel wobbly. The Unity 3 engineer is quite clear in this point, as is the “Back-up (my phrase) engineer – and this is more money.

    • To address Malcolm’s ‘answers’:-

      1) The human eye is wide-angle, taking in the whole setting as viewed from the Town Bridge. The new bridge would be visually diminished by its 50-70m distance from the Town Bridge, and not zoomed-in larger and out of proportion

      2) The comparison of surfacing is a trivial issue. The Unity bridge could easily support a thicker-wear-layer, at comparatively little additional cost.

      3) The Unity bridge has passed its Category 2 Check with minor comments, such as possible damping, which is easily applied at little cost. We await with interest what the Category 3 Check of the cable-stayed design has to say.

      4) And if Malcolm is intent on discrediting the identified £300,000 cost-saving in supply and installation of the Unity bridge, it would also need simpler foundations, and considerably less than the £45,000 budgeted for the lighting of the mast, anchors and cable-stayed deck.

    • Godfrey Marks asks us to “think in the round”, yet posts subjective criticisms of the cable-stay design’s aesthetics.

      Godfrey, you call the cable-stay design “complex”. I call it simple.

      You call it “extravagant”. I call it an investment.

      You call Unity 3 “less pretentious” – I call it plain.

      You call the cable-stay mast “clumsy” and “massive”. I call it elegant, and well proportioned when viewed in context with the massive building development going up all around it.

      You describe a “rusty in-your-face base”. I’d call it a meeting point, a focus for the northern end of the bridge, and a practical solution to the engineering challenge posed by the site.

      Your aesthetic criticisms are personal opinions. Those of us who support the cable-stay design have personal opinions too, and ours are no less valid than yours.

      We are “thinking in the round”. We’re simply reaching different conclusions.

    • Thanks, Bob, for your opinions. If you think the cable-stayed design is a good example of its type, cost-effective as a solution, valid as a fashion statement, unobstructive to limited public space, compatible with the architectural planning of Kingston Mills, or elegant either as engineering or as a monument, then there’s little point in arguing further. We shall have to see how many Bradford people agree with you.

    • Oh its a bridge! (there was me thinking one of the developers cranes had toppled over). Clear to see how it would get a higher footfall than the cable stay design. Definitely a bridge to be stood upon, rather than looked upon.

    • Can nobody see what is really going on here? Why are we still arguing over the aesthetics of one bridge over the other? Bob Jones I agree with you, you are entitled to your opinion and so is everyone else so why is it not being put to a vote? The major problem here is that the council are completely refusing to offer an alternative a tad suspicious considering they are there to represent the people and the people have spoken in a vote a year ago. Supporters of the cable stay claim that this vote is inconclusive but what is obvious is that more people wanted a rethink than wanted the cable bride. So why now are they just blundering on with the cable stay without ever considering the alternative? We have 2 designs of various merits why not give the people impartial and unbiased information on each and let them decide? I call for anyone to give me a good reason why we can’t just have a referendum on it and bring back the fair democratic process to our town?

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