A NORTH-EAST bridge builder has secured millions of pounds of funding to send hundreds of bridges to southern Asia.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox announced yesterday that UK Export Finance (UKEF) will provide £49m worth of support for Darlington-based Cleveland Bridge to construct 250 bridges for rural Sri Lankan communities.

The financing of these 250 bridges follows the provision of support in 2011 for 210 bridges and in 2014 for 618 bridges.

The Sri Lankan government estimates that collectively the bridges will benefit more than 100,000 families as well as businesses in the country, reducing the distance people need to travel to reach essential services such as healthcare and education, as well as bringing rural communities closer together by cutting transport costs.

This project has been designed to accelerate Sri Lanka’s development through improvements in its rural transport infrastructure.

Don Underwood, international commercial manager at Cleveland Bridge, said: “We are delighted UKEF has chosen to support this project, and Cleveland Bridge’s continued growth.

"UKEF’s flexible support is hugely important for our international success, helping us build confidence with our overseas customers and access financing to deliver dynamic projects.

“Securing this latest Sri Lankan bridge project further underpins our export strategy and the ongoing development of our business, our people and our capabilities.

"It is enabling further investment in skills, processes and equipment, notably our commitment to highly-productive lean manufacturing operations delivered by our talented and experienced workforce.”

Mr Fox said: “Cleveland Bridge demonstrates the value British design and engineering can bring to the world stage. Over the course of the last 100 years UK Export Finance has led the way in delivering innovative finance to help British companies achieve international success across a wide range of industries and countries.

“I am delighted that as UKEF marks its centenary year, it continues not only to support the UK’s exporters but also those transformational projects that will have a direct impact on the lives of citizens across the globe.”