What’s the difference between a bridge, a viaduct and a crossing? Whichever term is used there is little doubt which are the five longest bridges in the United Kingdom.
In reverse order:
5. Queensferry Crossing
The Queensferry Crossing will be the third bridge to be constructed across Scotland’s Forth River and is due to open in May 2017 following delays due to high winds. A cable-stayed bridge, the new crossing will stretch for 2,700 metres (8,858 feet) over the river at Queensferry.
4. Queen Elizabeth II Bridge
The QE II only opened in 1991 and was built at a cost of £120 million to relieve traffic congestion east of the Greater London area. An impressive feat of engineering, the cable-stayed bridge extends 2,872 metres (9,422 feet) across the River Thames. However, the volume of traffic using the bridge is now in excess of 130,000 vehicles daily leading to major jams and disruptions which would seem to defeat the whole purpose of the exercise.
3. Tay Rail Bridge
During heavy winds in December 1879, the original Tay Bridge catastrophically collapsed and plunged into the river taking a six-carriage train and seventy-five passengers and crew with it. No one survived the disaster. The new Tay Bridge was built as a replacement and opened in 1883 with a length of 3,264 metres (10,708 feet).
2. Second Severn Crossing
Officially opened by the Prince of Wales in 1996, the Second Severn Crossing was built to cope with the heavy traffic demands on the nearby Severn Bridge. Built further south than the original bridge, the Severn Estuary is wider and therefore the bridge is also longer than the Severn Bridge at 5,128 metres (16,824 feet). Learning lessons from the older bridge, the new structure incorporated baffle plates along the sides of the bridge to reduce the effect of strong winds coming off the Severn Estuary. This has been largely successful although the Second Severn Crossing has been forced to close on several occasions due to ice falling from the upper structure.
Is a viaduct a bridge? According to the dictionary, it is and, therefore, the longest bridge in the UK by some distance is the Bromford Viaduct with a total length of 5,600 metres (18,373 feet). The viaduct is part of the M6 motorway, took eight years to build, and spans the city of Birmingham from Castle Bromwich, over Spaghetti Junction, to Gravelly Hill.