The longest river crossing in the UK’s the Second Severn Crossing, a magnificent structure spanning waters that mark the end of the River Severn and the start of the Severn Estuary. It was built to take traffic at the point where the M4 crosses between England and Wales, connecting the two nations like never before.
When the new bridge was planned, tenders were taken from private consortia to fund the building and running of the bridge for a specific timeframe. In 1990 the contract was won by Severn River Crossing plc. and construction started on 26 April 1992. The architect appointed was the talented Ronald Weeks of the Percy Thomas Partnership. Four years later, on 5 June 1996, the bridge was opened by The Prince of Wales. The Second Severn Crossing’s a convenient route between England and Wales and it can carry a lot more traffic between the two nations than the old bridge, with three lanes each way and a hard shoulder for emergencies.
The building of the bridge was a constructional and engineering challenge due to mudflats and incoming tides. The Severn has the second biggest tidal range in the world with erratic currents and gusting, high winds. Most of the bridge construction was carried out at a nearby site and transported to the site for erection. A 2km access causeway was built over the river on the English side to facilitate the process.
In managing the new bridge, Severn River Crossing plc took on the outstanding debt from the original Severn Bridge, operating both under the same umbrella and charging tolls. The contract on the bridge is likely to expire around 2020, when Severn River Crossing plc may hand over the bridge to public ownership.
The Second Severn Crossing’s a total of 5.128km long and some 37m above the water. On the English side, there’s an impressive 25-span (2.103km) viaduct. The Welsh side has an equally magnificent 24-span (2.077km) viaduct. They’re both joined in the middle by Shoots Bridge, a 948m long bridge over the Severn river channel below, supported at the top by a number of cables linked to towers. It’s an impressive sight!
Initially, there was concern about the environmental impact of the new bridge, but studies some time after construction revealed that these were unfounded. The Second Severn Crossing’s a wondrous, prosperous and very well used structure, facilitating communications between two great countries of the UK.