ONE of the biggest cranes in Europe has started lifting into place a landmark river bridge that will form the centrepiece of the new £35m Porthmadog bypass.
The giant crawler crane weighs 630 tonnes and is one of only three of its kind in Europe. Its 60m (196ft) jib can be seen for miles around.
The main body of the machine arrived on site in Porthmadog last week from Somerset, where it was used in a river crossing project in Taunton.
The tracks, jib, boom and counterweight were delivered to North Wales in wagons and assembled over the course of several days.
A joint venture partnership of Balfour Beatty and Jones Bros Civil Engineering UK is building the Porthmadog, Tremadog and Minffordd bypass for the Welsh Assembly Government.
The 140m, three-span viaduct being constructed will carry bypass traffic over the Afon Glaslyn. It will run parallel to the existing Cambrian Coast Mainline railway bridge.
Engineers are using the mammoth Sany SCC6300 crane, supplied by Belgian contractor Sarens Group, to lift and install nine steel beams over the river.
Each beam is between 40m and 50m long, and they will be installed gradually over the coming weeks. Installation is expected to be completed in early May.
Wyn Daniels, bypass partnership project manager, said: “Construction of the Glaslyn bridge is a hugely challenging and exciting part of the bypass project.
“There has been considerable interest from the local community since the crane arrived, and it will be a prominent feature of the skyline for the coming weeks.
“The installation of the bridge represents the culmination of lots of hard work behind the scenes.
“Construction work beneath water level has been going on for several months, and once the sections of the beams had arrived on site they had to be spliced together using a smaller crane.
“Installation of the Glaslyn bridge will be the biggest step yet in the bypass project and will put us well on the way to completing work on schedule.”
The Porthmadog bypass is the largest civil engineering project currently under way in North Wales.
The long-awaited new section of the A487 carriageway will improve journey times, ease congestion and significantly improve environmental conditions by enabling current through traffic to bypass Porthmadog, Tremadog and Minffordd.
The Glaslyn viaduct is one of eight bridges being built as part of the bypass scheme.