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Drone video: New Gairnshiel bridge finally taking shape after decades of waiting

Drone images of beams being positioned on the new Gairnshiel Bridge
Enormous beams were lowered into position for the new Gairnshiel Bridge. All photos: Kenny Elrick, 13/10/22

A major step forward in the £3.8 million Gairnshiel Bridge replacement project took place today when gigantic metal beams were lowered into position in an enormous engineering operation in Deeside.

Work on the new crossing over the River Gairn north of Ballater started in April this year, and is still on course for completion by February.

The beam sections weigh up to 100 tonnes. The old bridge can be seen in the background.

There have been calls for a new bridge in the area for decades due to the old Gairnshiel Bridge, which dates back to the 18th century, frequently needing to shut due to damage to its fragile structure.

This morning, huge beam sections weighing up to 100 tonnes were painstakingly lifted into place by a 550-tonne capacity crane which had to itself be built on the site.

It marks a significant move forward for the project, which Aberdeenshire Council bridges manager said has been the “most complex” one he’s ever worked on.

The specialised crane was brought in especially for this operation.

The beam sections were transported all the way to Gairnshiel via the A90 from Perth, before being transported carefully through Deeside.

One of the giant beams being transported through Deeside to Gairnshiel. Photographed in Banchory by Kenny Elrick on the evening of September 13., 2022.

A specialised eight-axle crane was required to get them into place across the River Gairn, and in order to even get the crane to the construction site, work had to be done to reprofile the bumpy-single track A939 road between Ballater and Gairnshiel in order to  make it flat enough.

This is the route the lorries delivering the beam sections took from Stonehaven onwards.

‘Emotional’ moment for councillor who has long campaigned for new Gairnshiel bridge

Councillor Geva Blackett at the closed-off Gairnshiel bridge in 2018.

Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside councillor Geva Blackett has been one of the most persistent voices calling for a new Gairnshiel Bridge.

She attended the lowering of the beam sections today, and said it was a powerful moment to see it finally happening after campaigning for improvements for so many years.

Schoolchildren also attended the lowering of the beam sections to learn more about engineering.

Geva said: “It was fantastic to see the beams being lowered across the river.

“This is Aberdeenshire Council building for the future and it is an emotional moment for me in what has been a decade-long journey.”

The new crossing is the first to be built at Gairnshiel since the 18th century.

Also in attendance were local schoolchildren, who watched the mechanical marvel of the engineering operation take place.

The schoolchildren were invited to watch the impressive feat of engineering take place.

Geva added: “Some of the children from Ballater School had an amazing outdooor learning experience watching the huge machinery lift the beams into place — for their futures!”

Why is a new Gairnshiel Bridge being built?

A hefty tourism bus going across Gairnshiel Bridge, which was originally built for horses.

The old, hump-backed bridge was originally built for horses, but has for years been bearing the strain of heavy motorised traffic.

The river crossing forms a crucial part of the transport network, taking the A939 between Deeside and Donside.

Whenever it is shut — as it frequently has over the years due to repair requirements caused by damage from heavy vehicles and general wear and tear — drivers are forced to endure extremely lengthy diversions.

Lonach Highlanders pass across the historic Gairnshiel Bridge. Photo: Colin Rennie.

This causes not just headaches for locals wanting to go between Deeside, Donside and even Moray further north, but it also has an adverse impact on the local economy.

The council intends for the new £3.8 million bridge to make these delays and diversions a thing of the past.

And once the new bridge is fully opened to traffic, the old, historically A-listed bridge will be protected from further damage for future generations to enjoy.

The new bridge is located just to the east of the old one.

A ‘key milestone’ in the project, says council and contractor

From left, Aberdeenshire Council bridges manager Donald Macpherson and council technician Simon Robertson at the construction site for the new Gairnshiel Bridge, Photos: Kath Flannery, September 2, 2022.

Aberdeenshire Council’s bridges manager Donald MacPherson said getting the bridge beams in place was a “key moment” in the project, and offered his thanks to all who have got the work to this point.

He added: “This new structure will ensure local residents and visitors alike can continue to enjoy the delights the area has to offer while providing improved journey times and reliability.”

The new bridge will be much sturdier than the old one, and able to cater to modern motorised traffic.

The contractor for the project Wills Bros Civil Engineering also celebrated today’s developments.

Jonathan Wills, director at Wills Bros, added: “The placement of these two huge bridge beams marks a key milestone in this much-anticipated project which, when complete, will benefit the local community and visitors to the area.

“We would also like to take the opportunity to thank the surrounding communities and the travelling public for their ongoing cooperation and patience during these works.”

New bridge was designed by local architects

Quarry Studios, office of Moxon Architects at Crathie.

The architectural design of the new bridge was made possible thanks to Moxon of Crathie.

The firm’s managing director Ben Addy said: “After a seven-year long journey of advocacy for the new bridge, feasibility studies, design and now construction, seeing the weathering steel beams lifted into place signifies a vital step towards the bridge’s completion.

The bridge has been designed to be in-keeping with the surrounding area.

“The new crossing will divert highway traffic away from the original Gairnshiel Bridge, one of the most important and beautiful historic structures in the area, preserving it for years to come while providing a crucial link for road users between Deeside and Speyside.”

Mr Addy said the bridge has been designed with consideration for flood levels, the low alignment of nearby roads, and “the desire to create a sculptural yet robust form”.


Read more about the details of the massive efforts behind the replacement project here: