AN ENGINEERING company in the North-East that built some of the world's most famous bridges has secured its future by winning a deal for the new Forth Road Bridge in Scotland.

Cleveland Bridge in Darlington beat international rivals to the multi-million pounds order that safeguards 260 jobs and creates 130.

The consortium Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors (FCBC) has appointed Cleveland Bridge to make massive steel girders that will support viaducts at either end of the 1.7 mile long structure.

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The deal has given the Darlington firm confidence to take on apprentices and draw up plans to buy new machinery.

The global downturn has been tough for the Yarm Road company which needs a steady stream of major building contracts to retain its 260 staff.

Its last big deal came in 2008 when it was asked to make and fit 21,180 tonnes of steel bridge girders for the M74 and the M8 motorways in Glasgow.

The new contract secures work for the next 18 months and means it will enter 2013 with optimism.

The three tower, cable-stayed bridge will be constructed west of the existing Forth Road Bridge, which was built by Cleveland Bridge in 1964. The old bridge is being phased out as it comes to the end of its lifespan.

The new £790m road link between Edinburgh and Fife, which will be one of Europe's biggest civil engineering projects when work starts next year, continues Cleveland Bridge's proud 135 year history.

Andy Hall, the company's general manager said: "We are delighted to have secured a significant contract on this prestigious project and look forward to working with FCBC. We have worked extremely hard to secure this contract against international competition and this contract will provide a solid foundation for our Darlington facility for the next 18 months, giving us the opportunity to recruit and build on our existing engineering, workshop and site resource."

A recruitment drive will begin for 70 fabrication workers, 10 staff in projects and engineering, and 50 for site labour.

Fabrication work will begin at the Darlington factory in the spring.

Cleveland Bridge has earned a reputation worldwide for building iconic structures such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia and the Victoria Falls Bridge which spans the River Zambesi in southern Africa.

It constructed bridges that cross the Tees and the Tyne, and in 1911 it designed the iconic Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough.

Carlo Germani, FCBC project director, said: "Cleveland Bridge rightly enjoys an international reputation for their specialist skills and expertise built up over many years. We look forward to working with them."

The bridge will open to traffic in 2016. Steel for the project is being supplied by Tata Steel from its mills in Scunthorpe and Motherwell.