Destination: Dublin

In early May 2009 eagle eyed Dubliners spied purposeful activity around the site of the Samuel Beckett Bridge. A floating pontoon and a tug flying the Irish and Dutch flags, appeared on the river. Large cranes climbed skywards and industrious workers strode the quaysides.

The port of Rotterdam saw a matching frenzy of activity. A nine hour operation, involving a 160 wheeled truck, a sea going barge, and a very unique cargo was underway. On May 3rd, in a bittersweet parting for Rotterdammers, the superstructure sailed beneath De Hef, the grey, nuts and bolts of this proudly industrial bridge briefly framing the shiny, futuristic Samuel Beckett. Destination: Dublin. Having weathered a storm in the English Channel, the cargo progressed steadily up the eastern coastline of Ireland and made a triumphant entry into Dublin. Crowds gathered in guard of honour formation and gave this most iconic bridge a rousing ‘céad mile fáilte’.

Following a little time spent lying off in the basin, some well planned trickery - weighing the front end to raise the wider back end - helped the structure sail through the East-Link Bridge with deceptive ease and centimetres to spare. In readiness for installation and to the applause of onlookers the superstructure was divided between two barges, the pivot point coming to rest between them and above the water. At high water, this pivot point was floated over the base post and allowed settle into place on the ebbing tide. Onlookers gasped as, at one point the bridge dipped into the river. The seemingly precarious moment is easily explained. The cables tensions had not yet been sufficiently tightened, a certain flexibility being required to avoid damage during the 628 mile sea journey.

The on site assembly progressed with quiet confidence and the first passage was made on December 10th, 2009. The eye pleasing triangularity of the bridge, with the pylon tip centred over the river belies its complex engineering. The asymmetry of the architecture, the cable stayed design with its daring, northward curve, the off centre pier (located a mere 28 metres from the south quay wall in order to keep the river’s navigation channel clear), along with the necessary rotating action were, in combination, great challenges.

The force on the back cables is equivalent to a people load of over 80,000 - a Croke Park full house, yet two front cable stays can be fully removed for maintenance purposes. Maintenance must also be carried out on the rotating mechanism every three months, though the bridge is opened every two weeks to keep it in tip top condition. A series of tunnels, some large enough for a man to walk through, facilitate internal maintenance. In fact, it is possible to reach as deep down as the river bed while inside the Samuel Beckett Bridge!

However, the best view is that of the illuminated bridge at night, the city to the west, the sea to the east and the infinite possibilities of the heavens above.

by Annette Black, Wicklow
Published on 08th September 2013