Severn Bridge
The Severn Bridge is a suspension bridge
Suspension bridge
A suspension bridge is a type of bridge in which the deck is hung below suspension cables on vertical suspenders. Outside Tibet and Bhutan, where the first examples of this type of bridge were built in the 15th century, this type of bridge dates from the early 19th century...

 spanning the River Severn
River Severn
The River Severn is the longest river in Great Britain, at about , but the second longest on the British Isles, behind the River Shannon. It rises at an altitude of on Plynlimon, Ceredigion near Llanidloes, Powys, in the Cambrian Mountains of mid Wales...

 between South Gloucestershire
South Gloucestershire
South Gloucestershire is a unitary district in the ceremonial county of Gloucestershire, in South West England.-History:The district was created in 1996, when the county of Avon was abolished, by the merger of former area of the districts of Kingswood and Northavon...

, just north of Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

, England, and Monmouthshire
Monmouthshire is a county in south east Wales. The name derives from the historic county of Monmouthshire which covered a much larger area. The largest town is Abergavenny. There are many castles in Monmouthshire .-Historic county:...

 in South Wales
South Wales
South Wales is an area of Wales bordered by England and the Bristol Channel to the east and south, and Mid Wales and West Wales to the north and west. The most densely populated region in the south-west of the United Kingdom, it is home to around 2.1 million people and includes the capital city of...

, via Beachley
Beachley is a village in Gloucestershire, England, near the border with Wales. It is located on a peninsula at the junction between the Rivers Wye and Severn, where the Severn Bridge ends and the smaller secondary bridge for the River Wye begins. The tidal drop here is one of the highest in the UK...

, a peninsula
A peninsula is a piece of land that is bordered by water on three sides but connected to mainland. In many Germanic and Celtic languages and also in Baltic, Slavic and Hungarian, peninsulas are called "half-islands"....

 between the River Severn and River Wye
River Wye
The River Wye is the fifth-longest river in the UK and for parts of its length forms part of the border between England and Wales. It is important for nature conservation and recreation.-Description:...

 estuary. It is the original Severn road crossing
Severn crossing
Severn crossing is a term used to refer to the two motorway crossings over the River Severn estuary between England and Wales. The two crossings are:*The Severn Bridge *The Second Severn Crossing...

 between England and Wales and took five years to construct at a cost of £8 million. It replaced the Aust ferry
Aust Ferry
Aust Ferry or Beachley Ferry was a ferry service that operated across the River Severn between Aust and Beachley both in Gloucestershire, England. Before the Severn Bridge opened in 1966, it provided a daily service for road traffic crossing between the West Country and South Wales...


The bridge was opened on 8 September 1966, by Queen Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

, who hailed it as the dawn of a new economic
An economy consists of the economic system of a country or other area; the labor, capital and land resources; and the manufacturing, trade, distribution, and consumption of goods and services of that area...

 era for South Wales. The bridge was granted Grade I listed status on 26 November 1999.


The first proposal for a bridge across the Severn, approximately in the same location as that eventually constructed, was in 1824 by Thomas Telford
Thomas Telford
Thomas Telford FRS, FRSE was a Scottish civil engineer, architect and stonemason, and a noted road, bridge and canal builder.-Early career:...

, who had been asked to advise on how to improve mail coach
Mail coach
In Great Britain, the mail coach or post coach was a horse-drawn carriage that carried mail deliveries, from 1784. In Ireland, the first mail coach began service from Dublin in 1789. The coach was drawn by four horses and had seating for four passengers inside. Further passengers were later allowed...

 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 the Severn Railway Bridge
Severn Railway Bridge
The Severn Railway Bridge was a crossing across the River Severn between Sharpness and Lydney, Gloucestershire. It was badly damaged in an accident involving river barges in 1960 and demolished in 1970.-Construction:...

 at Sharpness
Sharpness is an English port in Gloucestershire, one of the most inland in Britain, and eighth largest in the South West. It is on the River Severn at , at a point where the tidal range, though less than at Avonmouth downstream , is still large .The village of Sharpness is pronounced with the...

 being opened in 1879 and the main line Severn Tunnel
Severn Tunnel
The Severn Tunnel is a railway tunnel in the United Kingdom, linking South Gloucestershire in the west of England to Monmouthshire in south Wales under the estuary of the River Severn....

 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
Chepstow is a town in Monmouthshire, Wales, adjoining the border with Gloucestershire, England. It is located on the River Wye, close to its confluence with the River Severn, and close to the western end of the Severn Bridge on the M48 motorway...

 Urban District Council convened a meeting of neighbouring local authorities to consider a Severn crossing to ease congestion and delays on the A48
A48 road
The A48 is a major trunk road in Great Britain. It runs from the A40 at Highnam west of Gloucester to the A40 at Carmarthen. Before the construction of the M4 motorway and the first Severn Bridge in the mid 1960s it was the principal route into South Wales. For most of its journey through Wales,...

 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
Department for Transport
In the United Kingdom, the Department for Transport is the government department responsible for the English transport network and a limited number of transport matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which are not devolved...

 from the Road Fund. However, the Bill was rejected by Parliament after opposition from the Great Western Railway Company
Great Western Railway
The Great Western Railway was a British railway company that linked London with the south-west and west of England and most of Wales. It was founded in 1833, received its enabling Act of Parliament in 1835 and ran its first trains in 1838...


After World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, 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
Mott, Hay and Anderson
Mott, Hay and Anderson was a successful 20th century firm of consulting civil engineers based in the United Kingdom. The company traded until 1989, when it merged with Sir M. MacDonald & Partners to form Mott MacDonald.-Early years:...

, with Freeman Fox and Partners
Hyder Consulting
Hyder Consulting is a multi-national advisory and design consultancy with particular specialisation in the transport, property, utilities and environmental sectors. The firm employs approximately 4,200 people across the UK, Europe, Germany, Middle East, Asia and Australia and has been listed on the...

. The public inquiry into the scheme was held on 24 September 1946 at Bristol university. However, because Government funding was prioritised for the similar Forth Road Bridge
Forth Road Bridge
The Forth Road Bridge is a suspension bridge in east central Scotland. The bridge, opened in 1964, spans the Firth of Forth, connecting the capital city Edinburgh, at South Queensferry, to Fife, at North Queensferry...

 (opened in 1964), construction of the Severn Bridge was not started until 1961: the UK government announced in 1962 that construction costs would be 'recovered' by means of a toll of 2s 6d (GBP 0.125) on all vehicle crossings, though walking or cycling across the bridge would be charge-free. 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 & Engineering Company
Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company
The Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company is a renowned bridge building and structural engineering company based in Darlington, England. It has been involved in many major projects including the Victoria Falls Bridge and the Humber Bridge.-History:...


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. The Severn Bridge and Aust Viaduct was granted Grade I listed status on 26 November 1999, while the Wye Bridge and Beachley Viaduct was granted Grade II listed status on 29 May 1998.

Aust Viaduct

The Aust Viaduct is a twin box girder structure with a concrete deck, which carries the roadway from the top of Aust Cliff
Aust Cliff
Aust Cliff is a 5.3 hectare geological Site of Special Scientific Interest adjacent to the Severn Estuary, near the village of Aust, South Gloucestershire, notified in 1954. The Severn Bridge crosses the cliff....

 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
Aust Ferry
Aust Ferry or Beachley Ferry was a ferry service that operated across the River Severn between Aust and Beachley both in Gloucestershire, England. Before the Severn Bridge opened in 1966, it provided a daily service for road traffic crossing between the West Country and South Wales...

. The bridge is a suspension bridge of conventional design, with the deck supported by two main cables slung between two steel towers. In 1966 the cables supporting the bridge deck were spun from 18000 miles (28,968.1 km) of wire. An unusual feature of the suspension cables carrying the deck is that they are not vertical, as for most suspension bridges, but rather arranged in a zig-zag fashion, with adjacent mounts closely spaced. The triangulation this offers is an attempt to reduce vibration, as is the prominent use of Stockbridge damper
Stockbridge damper
A Stockbridge damper is a tuned mass damper used to suppress wind-induced vibrations on taut cables, such as overhead power lines. The dumbbell-shaped device consists of two masses at the ends of a short length of cable or flexible rod, which is clamped at its middle to the main cable...

s on the cables. The bridge is 5240 ft (1,597.2 m) long, consisting of a 3240 ft (988 m) central span between the towers and the two 1000 ft (305 m) side spans. The towers rise to 445 ft (136 m) above mean high water and are of hollow box construction. The deck
Deck (bridge)
A bridge deck or road bed is the roadway, or the pedestrian walkway, surface of a bridge. It is not to be confused with any deck of a ship.The deck may be of concrete,wood which in turn may be covered with asphalt concrete or other pavement...

 is an orthotropic
Orthotropic deck
An orthotropic bridge or orthotropic deck is one whose deck typically comprises a structural steel deck plate stiffened either longitudinally or transversely, or in both directions. This allows the deck both to directly bear vehicular loads and to contribute to the bridge structure's overall...

 steel box girder
A girder is a support beam used in construction. Girders often have an I-beam cross section for strength, but may also have a box shape, Z shape or other forms. Girder is the term used to denote the main horizontal support of a structure which supports smaller beams...

 of aerofoil
An airfoil or aerofoil is the shape of a wing or blade or sail as seen in cross-section....

 shape with cantilever
A cantilever is a beam anchored at only one end. The beam carries the load to the support where it is resisted by moment and shear stress. Cantilever construction allows for overhanging structures without external bracing. Cantilevers can also be constructed with trusses or slabs.This is in...

ed 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
Forth Road Bridge
The Forth Road Bridge is a suspension bridge in east central Scotland. The bridge, opened in 1964, spans the Firth of Forth, connecting the capital city Edinburgh, at South Queensferry, to Fife, at North Queensferry...

, after the original wind tunnel model was accidentally destroyed. The sections of the deck were built at Fairfield-Mabey
Mabey Group
The Mabey Group is a British-based group of engineering companies, which specialises in bridging, steel fabrication, plant hire and construction products...

 in Chepstow
Chepstow is a town in Monmouthshire, Wales, adjoining the border with Gloucestershire, England. It is located on the River Wye, close to its confluence with the River Severn, and close to the western end of the Severn Bridge on the M48 motorway...

, 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.
Sir William Arrol & Co.
Sir William Arrol & Co. was a leading Scottish civil engineering business founded by William Arrol and based in Glasgow. It built some of the most famous bridges in the United Kingdom including the Forth Bridge and Tower Bridge in London.-Early history:...

 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
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 camp, which the bridge crosses.

Wye Bridge

The Wye Bridge is a 1340 ft (408 m) long cable-stayed bridge
Cable-stayed bridge
A cable-stayed bridge is a bridge that consists of one or more columns , with cables supporting the bridge deck....

, which crosses the border marked by the River Wye
River Wye
The River Wye is the fifth-longest river in the UK and for parts of its length forms part of the border between England and Wales. It is important for nature conservation and recreation.-Description:...

 between England and Wales, 2 miles (3.2 km) 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.

Post-construction changes

In January 1977, it was announced that bridge traffic would be restricted to a single lane in each direction following the discovery of several weaknesses in the ten year old structure.
The lane closures would last for several months.

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 35 mm (1.4 in) thick layer of mastic asphalt
Asphalt or , also known as bitumen, is a sticky, black and highly viscous liquid or semi-solid that is present in most crude petroleums and in some natural deposits, it is a substance classed as a pitch...

 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 bridge was necessary. Since the construction of the Second Severn Crossing
Second Severn Crossing
The Second Severn Crossing is a bridge which carries the M4 motorway over the River Severn between England and Wales, inaugurated on 5 June 1996 by HRH The Prince of Wales to augment the traffic capacity of the original Severn Bridge built in 1966...

, 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
Anglo-Welsh poetry
There is no clear definition of what constitutes Anglo-Welsh poetry, and the term tends to have been replaced by the broader "Welsh writing in English" or Welsh literature in English. It includes poetry written by Welsh people whose first language is English, but it also includes poetry by those...

 Harri Webb
Harri Webb
Harri Webb was an Anglo-Welsh poet, journalist and Welsh nationalist.Harri Webb was born on 7 September 1920 at 45 Ty Coch Road on the outskirts of Swansea, but before he was two the family moved to Catherine Street, much nearer the city centre...

 wrote an Ode on the Severn Bridge:
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
Humour or humor is the tendency of particular cognitive experiences to provoke laughter and provide amusement...

 and also as a more serious anti-toll campaign.
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.
In 1966 the toll for using the new motorway crossing was set at 2s 6d (post-decimalisation
Decimal Day
Decimal Day was the day the United Kingdom and Ireland decimalised their currencies.-Old system:Under the old currency of pounds, shillings and pence, the pound was made up of 240 pence , with 12 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings in a...

 equivalent £0.125) for all vehicles apart from solo motorcycles which enjoyed a reduced toll of 1s (£0.05). For a small car the bridge toll represented a saving of 7s (£0.35) on the price, at that time 9s 6d (£0.475), of using the ferry crossing. By 1989, the toll had reached £2 each way for goods vehicle having an unladen weight exceeding 1.525 tonnes and passenger vehicles adapted to carry more than 16 passengers and £1 each way for other vehicles. Currency depreciation has been a feature of UK monetary policy in the intervening decades, and the RPI
Retail Prices Index (United Kingdom)
In the United Kingdom, the Retail Prices Index or Retail Price Index is a measure of inflation published monthly by the Office for National Statistics. It measures the change in the cost of a basket of retail goods and services.-History:...

 is a widely applied surrogate for the resulting impact of general price inflation: if the Severn toll had increased in line with general inflation since September 1966, when the British Queen opened the bridge, the original value of £0.125 would have reached £2.02 each way in January 2010.

, the toll is £5.70 for a car, increasing to £17.20 for a heavy goods vehicle. The tolls will rise to £6.00 and £18.10 respectively on 1 January 2012.
A motorcycle is a single-track, two-wheeled motor vehicle. Motorcycles vary considerably depending on the task for which they are designed, such as long distance travel, navigating congested urban traffic, cruising, sport and racing, or off-road conditions.Motorcycles are one of the most...

s and disabled badge
Disabled parking permit
A disabled parking permit, also known as a handicapped permit, disabled placard, disabled badge and "Blue Badge" in the European Union, is displayed upon parking a vehicle carrying a person whose mobility would be otherwise significantly impaired by one or more of age, illness, disability or...

 holders are exempt from the tolls, although both must stop at the toll booths to have their eligibility confirmed, and also to allow the barrier to be raised. The tolls for the Second Severn Crossing are the same, although in that case, the tolls are collected on the Welsh side (although still for traffic entering Wales, not leaving it), sufficiently far from the bridge that even severe queueing doesn't reach it. A system known as the Severn TAG
Severn TAG
The Severn TAG is a payment system for collecting bridge tolls for drivers using either the Severn Bridge Crossing or the Second Severn Crossing over the Severn Estuary between England and Wales....

 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.

Credit card
A credit card is a small plastic card issued to users as a system of payment. It allows its holder to buy goods and services based on the holder's promise to pay for these goods and services...

Debit card
A debit card is a plastic card that provides the cardholder electronic access to his or her bank account/s at a financial institution...

 cards were not originally accepted on either bridge, but drivers who did not have the means to pay were able to get a bill from the toll operator and pay by post later. Card payment was made available in time for the 2010 Ryder Cup
2010 Ryder Cup
The 38th Ryder Cup matches were held 2010 at the Celtic Manor Resort in the city of Newport, Wales. It was the first time the competition was staged in Wales. With the USA as the defending Cup holder the event was played on the newly-constructed Twenty 10 course, specifically designed for the...

, however, users would be required to enter their PIN
Personal identification number
A personal identification number is a secret numeric password shared between a user and a system that can be used to authenticate the user to the system. Typically, the user is required to provide a non-confidential user identifier or token and a confidential PIN to gain access to the system...

 and cash was still the recommended payment method to avoid delays. A permanent card payment system which does not require a PIN was installed in 2011.

The cycle path and footpath, which run along either side of the roadway, may be used free of charge. Only the original bridge has such a public access.

Historic overview of the toll charges

Date Category 1 – passenger vehicles up to 9 seats Category 2 – commercial vehicles up to 3,500 kg and buses up to 17 seats Category 3 – commercial vehicles over 3,500 kg
26 April 1992 £2.80 £5.60 £8.40
1 January 1993 £3.10 £6.20 £9.30
1 January 1994 £3.40 £6.80 £10.10
1 January 1995 £3.70 £7.40 £11.10
1 January 1996 £3.80 £7.70 £11.50
1 January 1997 £3.90 £7.80 £11.70
1 January 1998 £4.00 £8.10 £12.10
1 January 1999 £4.20 £8.40 £12.50
1 January 2000 £8.50 £12.70
1 January 2001 £4.40 £8.70 £13.10
1 January 2002 £4.40 £8.90 £13.30
1 January 2003 £4.50 £9.00 £13.50
1 January 2004 £4.60 £9.30 £13.90
1 January 2005 £4.80 £9.60 £14.30
1 January 2006 £4.90 £9.80 £14.70
1 January 2007 £5.10 £10.20 £15.30
1 January 2008 £5.30 £10.60 £15.90
1 January 2009 £5.40 £10.90 £16.30
1 January 2010 £5.50 £16.40
1 January 2011 £5.70 £11.50 £17.20
1 January 2012 £6.00 £12.10 £18.10

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
Highways Agency
The Highways Agency is an executive agency, part of the Department for Transport in England. It has responsibility for managing the core road network in England...

the inspection concluded that the bridge needed restrictions on heavy goods vehicles.
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
Forth Road Bridge
The Forth Road Bridge is a suspension bridge in east central Scotland. The bridge, opened in 1964, spans the Firth of Forth, connecting the capital city Edinburgh, at South Queensferry, to Fife, at North Queensferry...

 and a similar system may be implemented on the Severn Bridge, in a move to halt the progress of the corrosion.

Simultaneous closures in 2009

On 6 February 2009, during a week of snowfall throughout Britain, both Severn bridges were closed simultaneously due to ice falling from the bridge structure and damaging vehicles.
On 22 December 2009 both bridges were closed again for the same reason.

This was only the third time that both bridges have been closed together, the first being due to a chemical fire in Avonmouth
Avonmouth is a port and suburb of Bristol, England, located on the Severn Estuary, at the mouth of the River Avon.The council ward of Avonmouth also includes Shirehampton and the western end of Lawrence Weston.- Geography :...

some years earlier.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.