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Darlington's Cleveland Bridge and Henry Williams building bridges for Sri Lanka
TWO famous North-East engineering neighbours have joined forces for the first time in their combined 300 year history to deliver a major bridge building contract.
Darlington-based Henry Williams has been called on by Cleveland Bridge UK Ltd to make parapets for a £35m deal for the Sri Lankan Government.
In May, The Northern Echo revealed that Cleveland Bridge, which designed the iconic Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough, had won an order to make up to 210 bridges that will transform lives in some of Sri Lanka's most isolated communities.
The three-year project will help villagers on the tropical island gain access to better education, healthcare and jobs by replacing flimsy rope bridges, which are often washed away in the rainy season, with permanent modern structures made of steel and concrete.
The subcontract worth about £750,000 to Henry Williams, is the first time the two Darlington companies have worked together on a major engineering project. The work will help to secure 106 jobs at Henry Williams and the 260 staff employed by Cleveland Bridge.
It is Henry Williams' biggest parapets order in its 130-year history.
"It has been all hands on deck," said marketing director Steve Cotton.
"It is perhaps surprising that two near-neighbours, both more than a century-old and operating in similar industry sectors, have not worked together until now and we recognise that Cleveland Bridge have shown tremendous faith in our ability to successfully deliver such a challenging project.
"For once, the size of the contract and therefore our ability to bulk-buy steel, allowed us to compete with the bigger boys, and this, alongside our smaller overheads, helped make us an attractive proposition."
Henry Williams, which has a purpose-built parapet bed at its factory in Dodsworth Street, Darlington, has a long history of manufacturing parapets for both the rail and road sectors, including work on the £52m Alderley Edge Bypass, in Cheshire.
To secure the deal, the company worked with engineering consultancy Sandberg to gain the required accreditation for its robotic welder and has recruited two specialist welders and supervisory staff.
The last of nine shipments of parapets is expected to be delivered next summer. Onsite bridge erection is due to be completed in 2016.
Cleveland Bridge, founded in Darlington in 1837, has built some of the world's most iconic structures.
Its role in the design and construction of Victoria Falls Railway Bridge earned worldwide acclaim.
It has worked on everything from the Thames Barrier, the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland and Hong Kong's Tsing Ma suspension bridge to sports grounds such as the new Wembley Stadium.
Its work in the North-East includes the Infinity and Surtees bridges in Stockton, the Tyne Metro Bridge and Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge.
Henry Williams was established in Glasgow in 1883 and moved to Darlington in 1911, as it was the home of railways, but during the First World War production switched to artillery parts and bombs.
It then returned to railway parts, investing in the Darlington plant and opening another in Calcutta where it employed 4,000.
The Second World War saw the Darlington plant produce more than two million mortar bombs.
After the war, it also expanded into the agriculture, motor, and general engineering industries.
In 1968, it installed the UK's first electronic automatic rail signalling system at Swindon, which is still in use.
It made power distribution equipment for the £40m project to improve signalling on the London Overground route that ferried spectators to and from the London 2012 Olympic Park.
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