Skip to content

Tees Barrage

River Tees, United Kingdom




4 years




United Kingdom
Project achievements

Economy boosted

Jobs created both directly and indirectly.

Solved the problem

Overcome centuries of flooding in the area.

Used engineering skill

Build a concrete and steel barrage to control the waters.

Construct a barrage across the river Tees to control flooding and tides

The Tees Barrage is an artificial barrier across the river Tees just upriver of Blue House Point near Stockton. Built to stop flooding, it's made from hundreds of tonnes of reinforced concrete and structural steel. The 70m-wide barrage controls the flow of the river, maintains water levels and prevents localised flooding around Stockton-on-Tees.

It's made up of a river barrage, road bridge, footbridge and a fish ladder. A fish ladder – also known as a fish pass – is a structure with a series of low steps for migrating fish to jump up. This allows them to navigate obstacles in a river.

Teesside authorities built the barrage to improve the river's watersports facilities by stabilising a tidal stretch of the river.

The waters above the structure are kept permanently at the level of an average high tide. They're used for sports including canoeing, jet-skiing and dragon boat racing. There's also a 1km rowing course.

The barrage also has a £2m whitewater centre that offers a whitewater slalom and rafting as well as surfing on an artificial 'surf wave'.

The structure has 4 massive flood gates. The gates each weigh 50 tonnes and are operated by hydraulic pistons. They make sure the river upstream stays at a constant level.

The area around the barrage was landscaped as part of Teesside's regeneration and includes a cycle path and nature reserve.

The Tees Barrage was inaugurated by the Duke of Edinburgh in July 1995.

Tees Barrage

The North East region of the Institution of Civil Engineers was 125 years old in 2016. To celebrate this the members took a vote on which project had had the most influence on the Teesside area. The Tees barrage was voted the winner.

Did you know …

  1. The word 'barrage' is a French word meaning 'dam generally'.

  2. Unlike a dam a barrage uses gates to regulate water levels. If waters upstream get too high because of heavy rainfall, opening the gates brings the water level down and avoids flooding.

  3. The Tees Barrage has a design life of 120 years.

Difference the barrage has made

The Tees Barrage has helped regenerate a previously run-down stretch of the river into a busy tourist and visitor attraction.

The Barrage International Whitewater centre upstream of the structure attracts thousands of people every year. The visitors bring money to the area and help boost the local economy.

The barrage has created jobs, both directly and indirectly.

How the work was done

The barrage was built 'in the dry.' This meant project workers dug a 29m wide channel around the south side of the construction area and used it to divert the river. This left the site dry for building work.

The concrete base of the barrage is 70m wide, 32m long and 5m thick. It's supported by 5 concrete piers, made from 15,000m³ of concrete.

Engineers installed 4 x 8m tall flood gates in between the piers to control the flow of water. The 50 tonne gates are operated by 21 tonne hydraulic rams.

The project team used an arched tubular steel design for the 600 tonne road bridge. It has 8 welded steel arches – each of them 17.5m wide with a 5m rise. Only 4 of the arches cross the river.

All 8 of the arches were sprayed with green chlorinated rubber paint to seal them against corrosion.

Around 16,500m³ of reinforced concrete and 650 tonnes of structural steel went into the project.

At the time, the barrage was the largest civil engineering project in the UK carried out by a single contractor.

People who made it happen

  • Client: Teesside Development Corporation
  • Designers: Ove Arup, the Napper Partnership
  • Construction: Tarmac Construction

More about this project