Posted: Sat 7th Jan 2023

Airbus could begin using River Dee again to transport wings to final assembly line

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Jan 7th, 2023


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In February 2020 the final A380 wing left the Airbus factory in Broughton destined for the Port of Mostyn and an onward journey to the final assembly line in Toulouse, France.

Many thought that would be the last time they would see the stunning sight of a £25m wing onboard the specialist barge being slowly transported along the Dee.

However, Airbus has said there is a ‘likely prospect’ it will repurpose the Dee River Craft transit system for future wing transport.

In April 2004 the Afon Dyfwydwy made its first transit down the River Dee carrying the wings for the then-new Airbus A380.

The Airbus factory at Broughton produces the wings for all Airbus commercial aircraft apart from the A220.

These have been transported to the assembly facility in Toulouse using the Airbus Beluga transport aircraft.

However, each of the wings for the A380 was 48 metres long, 14 metres wide and weighs 25 tonnes, for transportation these have to be placed in a jig that itself weighs 100 tonnes, making transport by air impossible.

With the Broughton factory located adjacent to the River Dee and a deep-water port available 18 miles away at Mostyn, the only likely method was the river.

The wing barge had to negotiate four low bridges with sometimes less than a metre of water between the bottom of the barge and the riverbed.

Any vessels navigating this canalised section of the River Dee, to and from the Port of Mostyn, can be hindered by the need to pass under the bridges and the safe passage
through the river channel, particularly, during smaller (neap) tides.

In 2010 a Mid-Way Berth (MWB) was constructed at Corus Jetty – next to the Flintshire Bridge.

 

The MWB aimed to provide an essential ‘safe haven’ for vessels when tidal conditions prevent them from making the journey downstream or when “other unforeseeable conditions are encountered.”

In 2019, Airbus made the decision to stop manufacturing the A380 in 2021 and, accordingly, the need to utilise the MWB for that particular wing variant ceased which meant the River Dee wing logistics would cease once the last wing had been transported from Broughton.

As part of the planning application for the MWB, which was submitted to Flintshire Council in 2010, a condition (number 6) was inserted that if the berth was no longer in use “all equipment shall be removed from the site and the site reinstated in accordance with details to be agreed with the Local Planning Authority.”

Airbus has since submitted an application to have condition 6 cancelled, meaning the berth should be left untouched for the time being.

A document submitted to Flintshire Council by Airbus states that there is a “likely prospect of Airbus re-purposing the Dee River Craft for other
future wing variant transport logistics, it is considered that condition 6 of the original planning permission should be deleted.”

“Accordingly, Airbus is submitting an application pursuant to Section 73 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to this effect.”

The application to delete condition 6 – the need for Airbus to remove the Mid-Way Berth –  was discussed at Connah’s Quay Town Council meeting on Wednesday.

Councillors unanimously backed Airbus’ request, the application will now be considered by Flintshire planners.

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