Sir John, who was the chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority and the Chief Executive of Network Rail, was also instrumental in the delivery of HS1, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. He is currently Chairman of National Express, a member of the National Infrastructure Commission and is also leading the ICE's independent, infrastructure needs assessment to provide informed advice about the UK's infrastructure needs up to 2050 and different options for how these needs could be delivered.
The 336m long, 105m high, £117 million bridge is scheduled to be completed in spring 2018. It will cross the River Wear between Wessington Way in Castletown and European Way in Pallion, and is the biggest civil engineering project currently underway in the Wearside area. Previous large scale civil engineering projects including the Stadium of Light, and the Tyne and Wear Metro have contributed to transforming the area.
At the site of the new bridge, Sir John received an in-depth briefing about the project and its progress, before taking a tour of the site and meeting workers responsible for its construction. While at the site Sir John also unveiled a 'This is Civil Engineering' banner, which is part of a national campaign to highlight civil engineering projects to the public. His visit to Sunderland was part of a tour of the North East, during which he met rail apprentices in Gateshead and judged a schools engineering competition at New College Durham.
ICE President Sir John Armitt said: "It is very important to show people what we are doing, to communicate with our communities. We need to be explaining to people what we are doing, why we are doing it and what the benefits will be, because all they are seeing is the inconvenience. And it's great to see school visits to sites like this and people from here going out and talking to schools."
Stephen McCaffrey, Project Director of FVB Joint Venture, which is building the new bridge, said: "We were delighted to welcome Sir John to the site and to be able to show him the progress made so far.
"Sir John has a wealth of experience and knowledge in civil engineering, and a great passion for design and construction, so it was an honour for us to be able to explain the complexities of this specific project and the processes involved."
Cllr Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council, said: "The people of Sunderland are very excited about the new bridge and the great benefits it will bring, not least in attracting new investment in the city and helping to regenerate land along the river, so it was wonderful for us to be able to share that with Sir John.
"The skill, time and precision that goes into designing and constructing a project of this scale is enormous, and Sir John was genuinely interested in how things are progressing. It would be wonderful to welcome him back for the official opening in 2018."