The Severn Bridge seen from Aust Beach (England)
|Carries||M48 motorway (4 lanes)|
National Cycle Route 4 (shared cycle path and footway)
|Locale||South West England / South East Wales|
|Maintained by||Highways England|
|Heritage status||Grade I listed|
|Total length||0.99 mi (1.6 km)|
|Height||445 ft (136 m)|
|Longest span||3,240 ft (988 m)|
|Clearance below||154 ft (47 m)|
|Constructed by||John Howard & Co., Sir William Arrol & Co., Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company and Dorman Long|
|Opened||8 September 1966|
The Severn Bridge (Welsh: Pont Hafren) is a motorway suspension bridge operated by Highways England that spans the River Severn and River Wye between Aust, South Gloucestershire in England, and Chepstow, Monmouthshire in South East Wales, via Beachley, Gloucestershire, which is a peninsula between the two rivers. It is the original Severn road crossing between England and Wales, and took three-and-a-half years to construct at a cost of £8 million, it replaced the Aust Ferry.
The bridge was opened on 8 September 1966, by Queen Elizabeth II, who suggested that it marked the dawn of a new economic era for South Wales. For thirty years, the bridge carried the M4 motorway; 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, 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 the Severn Railway Bridge at Sharpness being opened in 1879 and the main line Severn Tunnel in 1886.
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; the bill was rejected by Parliament after opposition from the Great Western Railway Company.
After the Second World War, 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; the public inquiry into the scheme was held on 24 September 1946 at Bristol University. 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 UK government announced in 1962 that construction costs would be "recovered" by means of a toll of 2s 6d (£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 (a joint venture of Sir William Arrol & Co., Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company and Dorman Long) in 1963, and completed in 1966.
The bridge has been featured in several promotions.
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. Design of the strengthening was by Flint & Neill; the surfacing is a 35 mm (1 3⁄8 in) thick layer of mastic asphalt over an acrylic waterproofing membrane.
During its 40th year of operation in 2006, the bridge was inspected to check for corrosion of the suspension cables. According to the Highways Agency, 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 rubber casing on the cables with dry air circulation, as used on the Forth Road Bridge, was installed in 2007–2009 in a move to halt the progress of the corrosion.
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.
The 514 ft (157 m) Aust Viaduct is a twin box girder structure with a concrete deck, which carries the roadway from the top of Aust 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.
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. In 1966 the cables supporting the bridge deck were spun from 18,000 miles (29,000 km) of wire; the main cables are each made up of 8,322 individual 5 mm (3⁄16 in) wires. 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 dampers on the cables. The bridge is 5,240 ft (1,600 m) long, consisting of a 3,240 ft (988 m) central span between the towers and the two 1,000 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 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 2,444 ft (745 m) Beachley Viaduct is of a box girder construction similar to that of the Severn Bridge but is supported on steel trestles as it crosses the Beachley peninsula over the British Army camp, Beachley Barracks, that is home to 1st Battalion, The Rifles.
The Wye Bridge (Welsh: Pont Gwy) is a 1,340 ft (408 m) long cable-stayed bridge, which crosses the border marked by the River Wye 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; the Wye Bridge was built by Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company.
The toll was collected on the English side, but only for vehicles travelling westwards from England to Wales; this led some people to describe it as a "tax on entering Wales", both in jest 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.
Two lands at last connected
Across the waters wide
And all the tolls collected
On the English side
In 1966, the toll for using the new motorway crossing was set at 2s 6d (post-decimalisation 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 of the ferry crossing, at that time 9s 6d (£0.475). By 1989, the toll had reached £2 each way for goods vehicles with an unladen weight over 1,525 kg (3,362 lb) and passenger vehicles adapted to carry more than 16 passengers, and £1 each way for other vehicles. If the Severn toll had increased in line with general inflation since September 1966, when Queen Elizabeth II opened the bridge, the original value of £0.125 would have reached £2.19 in each direction (or £4.38 as it is just a one-way toll) as of 2016[update].
In the 2016 United Kingdom budget George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced that toll charges on the Severn crossings would be halved in 2018; the Welsh Liberal Democrats leader Kirsty Williams called the cut "pathetic" and said, "The Chancellor is cynically acting as if he is doing commuters a favour, but the fact is that he wants to keep this unfair tax on entering Wales." The toll was due to be cut to £5.40 in 2017 but actually increased further.
In July 2017, the Welsh Secretary, Alun Cairns, announced that tolls would be abolished by the end of 2018, claiming that this would boost the South Wales economy by around £100m a year. In September 2017, Cairns confirmed that tolls would be reduced in January 2018 when VAT is removed. In October 2018 he said that the Severn Bridge tolls would cease on 17 December 2018.
On 17 December 2018, all toll lanes were permanently closed, officially marking the start of a toll-free journey into Wales for the first time since the bridge's construction. During the removal process of the toll booths, traffic was directed through a temporary three-lane layout, directly through the centre of the former toll lanes; these lanes were narrower than usual, resulting in a 50mph speed limit being enforced. On 25 March 2019, a newly resurfaced road structure was opened, moving traffic flow from the centre of the former toll lanes to the right-hand side, directly next to eastbound traffic; this will allow for further work to remove any remaining toll infrastructure to the left of the new road layout.
History of charges
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||£4.20||£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||£10.90||£16.40|
|1 January 2011||£5.70||£11.50||£17.20|
|1 January 2012||£6.00||£12.10||£18.10|
|1 January 2013||£6.20||£12.40||£18.60|
|1 January 2014||£6.40||£12.80||£19.20|
|1 January 2015||£6.50||£13.10||£19.60|
|1 January 2016||£6.60||£13.20||£19.80|
|1 January 2017||£6.70||£13.40||£20.00|
|8 January 2018||£5.60||£11.20||£16.70|
|17 December 2018||Free|
As of November 2010[update], Severn River Crossing plc was owned
- 35% John Laing, British developer infrastructure operator
- 35% Vinci, French concessions and construction company
- 15% Bank of America, American multinational banking and financial services corporation
- 15% Barclays Capital, British multinational investment bank
The company's 2011 annual report showed the same companies still owned, through subsidiary companies, all the issued ordinary share capital of the Plc.
Ownership of the bridge and the Second Severn Crossing returned to the UK government on 8 January 2018 when the revenue required to build and maintain them, as defined in a Concession Agreement with the Secretary of State for Transport, had been collected. In 2010, the concession was expected to end in 2017. In 2012, changes were made to the agreement to reflect the effect of changes in VAT and Corporation Tax and the costs of installing credit card handling systems; the net effect was to increase the required revenue from £995.83 million to £1,028.91 million in 1989 prices.
Monuments and plaques
The bridge won a Civic Trust Award in 1968
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.
The original Severn Bridge status website, www.severnbridge.co.uk, was decommissioned in December 2018 following the removal of the tolls and the handing back of the bridge to the UK government. Subsequently, an alternative source of bridge status information, Enviroute, is being developed with the Highways Agency.
- List of crossings of the River Severn
- List of crossings of the River Wye
- Aust Severn Powerline Crossing
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Consulting and structural engineers Flint & Neill – the company which designed and supervised the strengthening of the Severn Bridge and is currently part of the new Forth Bridge design team – has been acquired by the leading Danish consulting group COWI.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to |
- Official website
- Severn Bridge at Structurae
- 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