Silver Jubilee Bridge


In 1868, the Runcorn Railway Bridge was opened and was then the only bridge that crossed the River Mersey between Runcorn and Widnes. At that time the only alterantives to cross the river was to use a ferry or travel 8 miles and cross the road bridge at Warrington.

In 1905 the Runcorn-Widnes Transporter Bridge opened and was then the first bridge to carry vehicular traffic between Runcorn & Widnes. This bridge soon became inadequate for the amount of traffic that wished to cross. In 1946 the Ministry of Transport agreed that the transporter bridge should be replaced when sufficient funds were available.

Any new bridge had to allow the passage of shipping beneath it. Many ideas were considered, including a new transporter bridge and a swing bridge. These were considered to be impractical and it was decided that the best solution was a high-level bridge adjacent to the railway bridge. This would allow the least obstruction to shipping and would also be the narrowest crossing point.

The first plan for a high-level bridge was a truss bridge with three or five spans, giving a 24 feet (7 m) dual carriageway with a cycle track and footpaths. This was abandoned because it was too expensive, and because one of the piers would be too close to the wall of the Manchester ship canal. The next idea was for a suspension bridge with a span of 1,030 feet (314 m) between the main towers with a 24 feet (7 m) single carriageway and a 6 feet (2 m) footpath. However aerodynamic tests on models of the bridge showed that, while the bridge itself would be stable, the presence of the adjacent railway bridge would cause severe oscillation. The finally accepted design was for a steel arch bridge with a 30 feet (9 m) single carriageway. The design of the bridge is similar to that of Sydney Harbour Bridge but differs from it in that the side spans are continuous with the main span rather than being separate from them. This design feature was necessary to avoid the problem of oscillation due to the railway bridge. The main span measures 1,082 feet (330 m) and each side span is 250 feet (76 m).

Construction began on the 25th of April 1956. The ground was cleared and the foundations for the piers constructed. Building of the bridge itself began in March 1958 and the side spans were completed by November 1959. The main arch was built by cantilevering steelwork from the side spans until it met in the middle in November 1960. The carriageway was suspended from the arch by 48 lock-coil wire ropes. From February 1960 approach roads and viaducts were being built on both sides of the river; the total length of viaduct constructed was 1,574 feet (480 m).The approaches on the Runcorn side blocked the Bridgewater Canal at Waterloo Bridge and the line of locks leading down to the Mersey were filled in.

The bridge was officially opened on 21 July 1961 by Princess Alexandra.

During its construction 720,000 rivets were used. Its height over the river bed is 285 feet (87 m) and the headroom over the ship canal is 80 feet (24 m). During its construction 5,900 tons of steel were used and 7,500 tons of concrete. The bridge requires constant repainting and for this one coat uses 6,000 imperial gallons (27,277 l) of paint. On the Runcorn side, the approach viaducts are 1,076 feet (328 m) in length, and on the Widnes side 498 feet (152 m). The cost of constructing the bridge was £2,433,000. At the time of its construction it had the third longest steel arch span in the world. It had the longest vehicular span in the country, but this record was held for only a few weeks until the Tamar Bridge was completed. By 2001 it was the 10th longest steel arch bridge, and at that time was just 20 centimetres (8 in) short of having Europe's largest span.

The bridge enabled the development of Runcorn New Town in the 1960s. (See: The village that wouldn't be swallowed) The amount of traffic using the bridge trebled between 1961 and 1970. This led to such severe congestion that in 1975 the bridge was widened to provide four lanes This was completed in 1977 and the bridge was re-named from Runcorn Bridge to the Silver Jubilee Bridge to commemorate the Queen's Silver Jubilee.

Traffic on the bridge has continued to grow to over 80,000 vehicles a day, and there is frequent congestion due to heavy traffic and the continued roadworks that never seem to stop. As a result, the building of a further crossing is planned, known as the 'Mersey Gateway'. This is planned to be a six-lane toll bridge to the east of the Silver Jubilee Bridge. See: Video  and Mersey Gateway

Ref: Wikipedia

Runcorn Bridge

Silver Jubilee Bridge today

Video of old Transporter Bridge