Severn Bridge

Severn Bridge

bridge_name=Severn Bridge

caption=The Severn Bridge seen from the English side of the river. From 1966 to 1996, the bridge carried the M4 motorway. On completion of the Second Severn Crossing the motorway from Olveston on the English side to Rogiet was renamed the M48
carries=4 lane M48 motorway
crosses=Severn Estuary
River Wye
locale=South West England/South East Wales
design=Suspension bridge
open=8 September 1966
toll=Car: £5.30
Van: £10.60
HGV: £15.90
Motorcycle: Free

coordinates= coord|51.6090|N|2.6384|W|region:GB_type:landmark|format=dms|display=inline,title
:"For the Ontario community, see Severn Bridge, Ontario"

:"Not to be confused with Second Severn Crossing"

The Severn Bridge (Welsh: "Pont Hafren") is a suspension bridge spanning the River Severn between South Gloucestershire, just north of Bristol, England, and Monmouthshire in South Wales, via Beachley, a peninsula between the Severn and Wye estuaries. It is the original Severn road crossing between England and Wales and took five years to construct at a cost of £8 million. [cite web | title=Construction cost | work= M48 Severn Bridge - Closures to Install Cable Drying | url= | accessdate=2008-05-12] It replaced the Aust ferry.

The bridge was opened on 8 September 1966 by Queen Elizabeth II, who hailed it as the dawn of a new economic era for South Wales. The bridge was granted Grade I listed status in 1998. [cite web | title=Severn Bridge and Aust Viaduct | work=Images of England | url= | accessdate=2006-12-22]


The first proposal for a bridge across the Severn, approximately in the same location as that eventually constructed, was in 1824 by Thomas Telford, who had been asked to advise on how to improve mail coach services between London and Wales. No action was taken, and over the next few decades the railways became the dominant mode of long-distance travel, with a rail bridge at Sharpness being opened in 1879 and the main line Severn Tunnel in 1886. However, the growth of road traffic in the early 20th century led to further calls for improvements, and in the early 1920s Chepstow Urban District Council convened a meeting of neighbouring local authorities to consider a Severn crossing to ease congestion and delays on the A48 passing through the town. In 1935 Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire County Councils jointly promoted a Parliamentary Bill to obtain powers to build the bridge over the estuary, with 75% of costs to be met by the Ministry of Transport from the Road Fund. However, the Bill was rejected by Parliament after opposition from the Great Western Railway Company. [ [ IHT site - M4 in Wales] ]

After World War II, plans began to be made for a nationally funded network of trunk roads, including a Severn Bridge, for which the contract was awarded to Mott, Hay and Anderson, with Freeman Fox and Partners. However, because Government funding was prioritised for the similar Forth Road Bridge (opened in 1964), construction of the Severn Bridge was not started until 1961. The substructure was completed by contractors John Howard and Co in 1963. The superstructure contract was awarded to Associated Bridge Builders Ltd in 1963, and completed in 1966. In parallel, the Wye Bridge was built by Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Co.. [ [ IHT site - Severn Bridge] ]

Component structures

The Severn Bridge crossing consists of four structures, which, listed in order from England to Wales, are: the Aust Viaduct, Severn Bridge, Beachley Viaduct and Wye Bridge.

Aust Viaduct

The Aust Viaduct is a twin box girder structure with a concrete deck, which carries the roadway to the first gravity anchorage of the old Severn Bridge. The roadway is then carried over the top of the concrete anchorage to the Severn Bridge.

Severn Bridge

The Severn Bridge is located close to the former Aust Ferry. The bridge is a suspension bridge of conventional design, with the deck supported by two main cables slung between two steel towers. The bridge is convert|5240|ft|m|abbr=on|lk=on long, consisting of a the convert|3240|ft|m|0|abbr=on central span between the towers and the two convert|1000|ft|m|0|abbr=on side spans. The towers rise to convert|445|ft|m|0|abbr=on above mean high water and are of hollow box construction. The deck is an orthotropic steel box girder of aerofoil shape with cantilevered cycle tracks and footway supported from the box. The shape of the bridge was determined by the designers Freeman, Fox and Partners following wind tunnel tests for the Forth Road Bridge, after the original wind tunnel model was accidentally destroyed. The sections of the deck were built at Fairfield-Mabey in Chepstow, and each 132 tonne section was then floated down the river before being hoisted into position. The construction was undertaken by Sir William Arrol & Co. and completed in 1966.

Beachley Viaduct

The Beachley Viaduct is also of similar box girder construction as the Severn Bridge but is supported on steel trestles as it crosses the Beachley peninsula. The peninsula contains an army camp, which the bridge crosses.

Wye Bridge

The Wye Bridge is a convert|1340|ft|m|0|abbr=on long cable-stayed bridge, which crosses the border marked by the River Wye between England and Wales, convert|2|mi|km|lk=on south of Chepstow. It consists of a single large cable stayed section with two single-leg pylons supporting the bridge deck from the centre of the roadway. The deck is an orthotropic box girder similar to the Severn Bridge but has a different appearance as it has two sets of cable stays on each of two towers. Originally there was only one set of cable stays but these were replaced during the strengthening works in the late 1980s.

Post-construction changes

The Severn Bridge crossing was strengthened and resurfaced in the late 1980s as the weight of traffic grew. The work included the strengthening of the Severn Bridge towers and deck, an extension to the existing Wye Bridge towers and the replacement of the original single stays with two stays. The open structure of the new stays is designed to facilitate maintenance. Most of the strengthening work was inside the deck box and towers and so is not visible. The surfacing is a convert|35|mm|in|1|abbr=on|lk=on thick layer of mastic asphalt over an acrylic waterproofing membrane.

The road is only two carriageways of two lanes in each direction, and as traffic volumes grew it became a major bottleneck. At its peak, it was carrying 50,000 vehicles a day. The burden of maintenance also became unmanageable, so that by the 1990s a second Severn crossing was necessary. Since the construction of the second bridge, the original crossing carries 15,000 vehicles day, 25% of the total traffic traversing the estuary.


Shortly after the opening of the Severn Bridge, Anglo-Welsh poet Harri Webb wrote an "Ode on the Severn Bridge": [cite web | url= | title= Lords Hansard Text | work= UK Parliament Publications & Records | date= 17 February 1999 | accessdate= 2007-07-05 ] :"Two lands at last connected":"Across the waters wide,":"And all the tolls collected":"On the English side."

The toll is indeed collected on the English side, and only on vehicles travelling westwards from England to Wales, leading some people to describe it as a "tax on entering Wales", both in jest, and also as a more serious anti-toll campaign. [cite news | publisher= The Western Mail | date= 31 August 2004 | url= | title= Road toll activist calls on Zeta | accessdate= 2007-07-05 ] Originally, tolls were charged in both directions, but the arrangements were changed in the early 1990s to eliminate the need for a set of toll booths for each direction of travel and the potential for traffic waiting to pay the toll backing up onto the bridge itself.

As of January 2008, the toll is £5.30 for a car, increasing to £15.90 for a heavy goods vehicle. [ cite web | url= | format=PDF | title= Severn Bridge Tolls | work= Severn River Crossing PLC | accessdate= 2008-01-01] Motorcycles and disabled badge holders are exempt from the tolls, although both must stop at the toll booths to have their eligibility confirmed. The tolls for the Second Severn Crossing are the same, although in this case, the tolls are collected on the Welsh side, the longer approach viaducts making queueing on the bridge less of an issue. A system known as the Severn TAG made by Amtech is also in operation, which allows drivers to pay electronically without having to stop at the toll booths. TAGs are available either on a per-trip or a seasonal basis, although only the latter attracts a discount.The cycle path and footpath, which run along either side of the roadway, may be used free of charge.

40 year inspections

During its 40th year of operation, the bridge was inspected to check for corrosion of the suspension cables. According to the Highways Agency, [cite web | work= Highways Agency | url= | title= Possible restrictions for M48 Severn Bridge | date= 29 September 2006 | accessdate= 2007-07-05 ] the inspection concluded that the bridge needed restrictions on heavy goods vehicles. [cite web | work = BBC News | url= | title= HGVs curbed on old Severn Bridge | date= 29 September 2006 | accessdate= 2007-07-05 ] Such vehicles are now restricted to one lane on the bridge, with weight restriction signs in place. A system of installing a rubber casing on the cables with dry air circulation is to be used on the Forth Road Bridge and a similar system may be implemented on the Severn Bridge, in a move to halt the progress of the corrosion. [cite web | work= BBC News | url= | title= Severn Bridge's corrosion problem | date= 7 March 2007 | accessdate= 2007-07-05 ]

See also

*Severn crossing
*List of Severn bridges
*Aust Ferry
*Aust Severn Powerline Crossing


External links

* [ Severn River Crossing PLC]
* [ ST58NE Aust M4 motorway] - Images of England (photos of listed buildings)
* [ Bridge celebrates 40th birthday] (video), "BBC News", 8 September 2006
* [ Archive pictures of the bridge being built (BBC)]
* [ Video of the Queen opening the bridge in 1966 (BBC)]
* [ Motorway Database: M48]
* [ Severn Bridge traffic webcam]

* [ shot of Severn Bridge]
* [ Bridge at sunset]
* [ Bridge]
* [ Bridge]
* [ Bridge]

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