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Flashback: Sydney’s ANZAC Bridge

Sydney’s ANZAC Bridge is one of Australia’s most iconic pieces of infrastructure and its construction was one of firsts.

Sydney’s ANZAC Bridge is one of Australia’s most iconic pieces of infrastructure and its construction was one of firsts.Sydney is home to some of Australia’s most iconic buildings and structures.

The Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge are synonymous with postcards and tourism advertisements spruiking the city. The historic Pyrmont Bridge is also an ode to the harbour city, and a monument Sydneysiders can boast about.

Even as one of the more recent additions to the city’s wide array of landmarks, ANZAC Bridge (formerly known as the Glebe Island Bridge) complements Sydney’s rich architectural heritage.

The original Glebe Island Bridge was built in 1903 to connect Rozelle to Pyrmont over Blackwattle Bay. The original structure couldn’t withstand to the city’s growth and a new bridge was proposed in the early 1990s.

Hugh Bishop was involved in the construction of the bridge from the very beginning. Over the course of its construction, from early 1992 right through to December 1995, Mr. Bishop was one of the Construction Managers, then Engineering Manager and finally Project Manager at the end of the project. “I’ve seen the construction from cradle to grave,” he says.

Baulderstone Hornibrook Engineering, now part of Lend Lease Engineering’s business, was contracted to construct the bridge while the Road Traffic Authority of NSW (RTA), now Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), designed it.

Mr. Bishop explains that the scope of the project was immense. The 800-metre-long bridge has a main span of 345 metres, two 120-metre-high towers and 128 stay cables supporting the reinforced concrete deck. “At the time it was the largest cast in-situ, open-grillage, cable-stayed bridge in the Southern Hemisphere,” he explains. “It was a very exciting time to be involved in the construction of a major piece of infrastructure.

“It was a definite first for Australia and the RTA,” adds Mr. Bishop. “[The RTA] was keen to design a cable-stayed bridge, which they had never done before.”

The initial bridge design and analysis was complex. It required cutting-edge computer technology to design the structure. RTA required Baulderstone Hornibrook to seek out international expertise, which they found in America, for the analysis of the partially constructed structure.

The American firm DRC Consultants (now part of the American firm T.Y.Lin) had developed in-house software to analyse the bridge structure. This software took the completed bridge model and de-constructed it. This allowed Baulderstone Hornibrook to build the bridge deck 10 metres at a time using a balanced cantilever construction methodology. “That meant that during the whole of the bridge deck construction DRC had a representative on site who was able to provide immediate advice on the structural integrity to the construction team,” says Mr. Bishop.

The project was the first which Baulderstone Hornibrook implemented a structured workforce training program with the cooperation of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).

The project also introduced a training program for workers for whom English was a second language. This included the development of a safety manual that was used in future projects. “There were a lot of firsts on the project, both technically and socially,” he adds.

The construction process ran smoothly, with the last major hurdle perhaps the most crucial point in the project. There was some uncertainty when the two large sections of the bridge were to be joined – the final piece in the puzzle. “From the public viewpoint, it never looked as though the two halves were going to meet – it looked like there was a two-metre difference in deck levels,” says Mr. Bishop. “It was actually just the temporary works on the bridge that needed to be removed to complete the process.”

The bridge was officially opened in December 1995 as Glebe Island Bridge. In 1998, on the 80th anniversary of Armistice Day, it was renamed ANZAC Bridge as a memorial for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) troops.

ANZAC Bridge was also the precursor to the Mỹ Thuận Bridge in Vietnam. In 1997 Mr. Bishop took a team of Baulderstone Hornibrook engineers to the South-East Asian country to build another cable-stayed bridge, which was jointly funded by the Vietnamese and Australian Governments. “We were able to take the technology and the lessons we learnt, and apply them to its design and construction,” he says. “We built it with exactly the same quality and better safety outcomes than in Australia.”

In his 35 years in the construction industry, Mr. Bishop believes that the ANZAC Bridge is one of the greatest projects he’s worked on.

“To me, the project wouldn’t have been a success without commitment of the staff, workforce, subcontractors and the client’s engineers who worked with us to build it,” says Mr. Bishop. “I’m immensely proud.”

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