Bridge analysis, design + assessment

Case Study

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Gateshead Millennium Bridge

  • cable stayed tilting opening footbridge

  • staged construction analysis

  • nonlinear dynamic analysis

Gateshead Millennium Bridge

Gateshead Millennium Bridge is the world's first and only tilting bridge, and was designed by Ramboll with Wilkinson Eyre. Made of steel and designed with the aid of LUSAS Bridge analysis software, the bridge stands 45m high and spans 105m across the River Tyne to provide a link for pedestrians and cyclists between the newly revived Newcastle quayside and the Gateshead quayside opposite.


Whilst small river craft can sail beneath the bridge, for larger craft the cable-stayed double arched structure pivots at the abutments through an angle of 40 degrees to give the 25m navigational clearance as specified by the client, Gateshead Borough Council. Powered by eight electric motors, it takes approximately four minutes to rotate the 850 tonne dead weight of the structure to its fully open position. When raised the suspension cables lay horizontal holding the pair of arches together. Huge 14 tonne castings on either side support bearings which withstand the outward and radial thrusts imposed.

The130m long bridge deck is parabolic in elevation and of steel box section that tapers in plan towards the centre of the deck. It carries a pedestrian footway that varies from 3m to 5m in width as well as a 2.5m cantilevered cycleway. The main arch is also parabolic in shape and tapers both in plan and elevation.


To model the structure in LUSAS two-noded 3D bar elements, 3D engineering thick beams, and corresponding 3D joint elements were used. Detailed analyses carried out included: linear static, frequency (eigenvalue) extraction, buckling (eigenvalue) analysis, and staged construction using a nonlinear analysis with a linear elastic material. Staged construction facilities in LUSAS allow a complete model to be built letting users activate or deactivate selected elements to suit the stage of construction being considered. It is particularly suited to cable stayed structures of this type where prestressing of the cables using initial stress or strain, and replacement or severance of cable stays is to be investigated. 

Shapour Mehrkar-Asl, one of the engineers on the project said, "The forces and displacements produced from the LUSAS analyses were used to decide upon the design and staged construction method". He continued, "The calculation of the initial forces in the tendons to give the required profile for the bridge deck, allowing for any camber, were used in the staged construction analysis, and were an essential part in the design of the bridge."

Staged construction on temporary supports before stressing of the stays Completed structure with all stays stressed and all temporary supports removed

Staged construction analyses were also carried out to investigate the lifting and transporting of the bridge from the construction yard, to its permanent position. Elements representing the lifting assembly can be seen on the LUSAS model shown. 

Model showing bridge lifting assembly

Dead, live, wind loading, and temperature effects were also assessed, with rigid supports being used for all models with the exception of the opening and closing model which required spring supports with contact gap elements.

Dynamic analysis

A dynamic analysis of the opening and closing sequence using step-by-step integration was also carried out. For this analysis, elements were amended to allow for a 40 degree rotation of the whole model with contact joint elements being used to allow for support separation. In addition, the 3D engineering thick beam elements were replaced with nonlinear 3D engineering thick beams to accommodate the rotation in the model.

Gateshead MIllennium Bridge (image: Mike1024)

According to Shapour Mehrkar-Asl, "Using LUSAS was essential on the design of this bridge because a full 3D staged construction analysis to model the construction sequence, and a step-by-step integration with large angles, to model the opening and closing sequence was required".

The fully assembled bridge was lifted into place by the Asian Hercules II, one of the world’s largest floating cranes and officially opened in May 2002. Its construction won the architects Wilkinson Eyre the 2002 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize and won Gifford the 2003 Institution of Structural Engineers Supreme Award.

More pictures, additional information and live web cams are available at:-

"Using LUSAS was essential on the design of this bridge because a full 3D staged construction analysis to model the construction sequence, and a step-by-step integration with large angles, to model the opening and closing sequence was required."

Shapour Mehrkar-Asl, Project Engineer, Ramboll

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Hungerford Bridge Millennium Project (Photo Copyright Hayes Davidson / Nick Wood)

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