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Severn Bridge

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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 road was renamed M48
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The Second Severn Crossing, seen here from the English side of the river, carries the M4 motorway between England and Wales. The shipping channel lies between the two towers
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Aerial view of both Severn Bridges. The older bridge is in the foreground.

The Severn Bridge (Welsh: Pont Hafren) and the Second Severn Crossing (Welsh: Ail Groesfan Hafren) are two large bridges crossing the River Severn between England and Wales. The old suspension bridge was inaugurated on September 8, 1966, and the new cable-stayed bridge, a few miles to the south, was inaugurated on June 5, 1996.

The two Severn Bridges are nowadays generally regarded (at least by people in the south of England and South Wales) as the main crossing points from England into Wales, despite the fact that the two share a substantial land border. Prior to 1966 road traffic between the southern counties of Wales and the southern counties of England - including London - either had to travel via Gloucester or take a ferry, which ran, roughly along the line of the Severn Bridge, from Aust to Beachley.

The Anglo-Welsh poet, Harri Webb, wrote these lines:

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 for the first bridge, and only on vehicles travelling from England to Wales. This arrangement eliminates the need for a set of toll booths for each direction of travel. The Second Severn Crossing has tolls on the Welsh side for travel into Wales.

Contents

The Severn Bridge

The old Severn Bridge is a 5240 feet (1597 metres) long suspension bridge crossing the estuary of the River Severn from South Gloucestershire, just north of Bristol, to Beachley, a peninsula of Gloucestershire between the Severn and Wye estuaries. The Severn Bridge runs continuously with the Wye Bridge, a 1340 ft (408 m) long cable-stayed bridge, of very different appearance, which crosses the border into Wales, 3km south of Chepstow.

The bridge is in almost exactly the same location as the old Aust Ferry. The bridge was opened by Queen Elizabeth II, who hailed it as the dawn of a new economic era for South Wales.

The road was only two lanes each way, and as traffic volumes grew it became a major bottleneck. The burden of maintenance also became unmanageable, so that by the 1990s a second bridge was necessary.

Second Severn Crossing

The Second Severn Crossing was built by a business consortium, and this time the tolls were collected on the Welsh side (but in the same direction).

The 3.2 mile (5128 m) long second bridge, which is of cable-stayed construction and hence, despite the apparent similarity, is not a suspension bridge, is wider and more resistant to high winds. Because of its location further to the south than the old bridge, and more in line with the M4, it carries more traffic than the first bridge (which continues in use). Its Welsh end is in Monmouthshire; its English end at Severn Beach in South Gloucestershire.

See also

External link

  • http://www.severnbridge.co.uk - The bridges' operating company. Facts and figures, history etc about the crossings.
  • Related: In the movie Star Wars (1977), "the sounds of the lasers were made by striking one of the suspension wires of the original Severn Bridge. The longer ones were used for the ships while the shorter ones were used for the hand guns." Quote from the IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/) trivia page for Star Wars (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076759/trivia).

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