Bridge Construction, 1963
Bridge Construction, 1963

The Severn Bridge was opened in 1966 to replace the ferry service crossing from Aust to Beachley. The new bridge provided a direct link for the M4 motorway into Wales.

The Severn Bridge has now carried more than 300,000,000 vehicles since it was opened in 1966. Between 1980 and 1990 traffic flows increased by 63% and there were severe congestion problems in the summer and at peak times each day. Further increases in traffic flows were expected in the years ahead. The problems encountered on the Severn Bridge were made worse by the occasional high winds, accidents and breakdowns. It is for these reasons that the Second Severn Crossing was constructed as without it congestion would become more serious and frequent on the M4, M5 and the local road network.

In 1984, the Government started to study the problems and in 1986 announced its intention to build a second Crossing at English Stones, some 5km downstream of the existing Bridge. Roads were to be constructed connecting the new Crossing to the M4 on either side of the estuary and a link to the M5 near Avonmouth.

Between 1987 and 1990 further studies were undertaken to find the best location and standard for the Crossing and approach roads. A series of public exhibitions and other consultations was held and in January 1990 the route for the scheme was published.

Second Severn Crossing
Second Severn Crossing

In April 1989 four groups, which included Engineers, Contractors and Banks were invited to tender for the provision of a Second Severn Crossing. A year later the Secretary of State for Transport announced the selection of the bid led by John Laing Ltd with GTM-Entrepose to design, build and finance the Second Crossing. This Consortium was also to take-over the maintenance and operation of the existing Severn Bridge. The agreement was formally signed between the Government and Severn River Crossing plc – a Company formed by Laing and GTM with Bank of America and Barclays de Zoete Wedd in October 1990.

Before work could start, Government sought powers from parliament to enable the building of the new Crossing and approach roads by means of the Severn Bridges Bill which was introduced in parliament in November 1990. Parliament took approximately one year to consider its provisions. Royal Assent was given in 1992 to the Severn Bridges Act 1992 enabling the Concession and construction of the new Crossing to start in April 1992.

The new Crossing was opened on 5 June 1996 by His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales.

Further Reading

The following information provides a background to the M48 Severn Bridge and the M4 Second Severn Crossing.

Photograph Archives

There are two image collections, one for each bridge: