The old Severn Bridge is a motorway suspension connection that crosses the Rivers Wye and Severn, near to Aust, a small village in South Gloucestershire. It was the original major crossing of the Severn by road between England and Wales taking over three years to complete and replacing the Aust ferry crossing which ran from 1926 until 1966. Opened in 1966 by Queen Elizabeth II, the bridge was hailed by her as marking a ‘new economic era for South Wales.’
The first proposal for a bridge across the Severn dates back to 1824 and was proposed by the Scottish engineer Thomas Telford who had been asked to consult on how the mail coach services could be improved between London and Wales. Telford’s advice was not acted on and over the prevailing decades railways continued to provide the main form of long distance travel. There is still a rail tunnel that runs under the River Severn.
Early in the 20th century further growth in road travel led to more demands being made to relieve the congestion and delays on the A48 into South Wales. The Chepstow Urban District Council called a meeting with local authorities to reconsider a Severn crossing. Once again, nothing was done and in 1935 Gloucestershire and Monmouth County Councils, jointly supported a Parliamentary Bill to build the bridge. This was rejected by Parliament when objections from the Great Western Railway Company were voiced.
After World War II, plans were set in place for a national network of trunk roads to be funded and this was to include a Severn Bridge crossing. A public enquiry was opened in September 1946 but because priority was given to the Forth Road Bridge, construction over the River Severn was not started until 1961. The substructure was completed by contractors in 1963. The superstructure was awarded to a different contractor for construction in 1963 and completed three years later.
To recoup the £8 million cost of construction (roughly worth 120 million today) it was decided in 1962 that a toll would be levied. The Severn Bridge is still in use today.
A TAXING MATTER
Anglo-Welsh poet Harri Webb, wrote an ‘ode’ shortly after the bridge was opened in 1966:
‘Two lands at last connected
Across the waters wide,
And all the tolls collected
On the English side’.
The poem is quite ‘emotive’ as the toll is only collected on the English side and only on vehicles travelling westwards from England to Wales. This has caused some campaigners to describe the practice as enforcing a ‘tax on entering Wales.’ However; this has been explained by the need to cut down on toll booths on both sides of the bridge thus, allowing less congestion to backup.
The best place from which to view and photograph the bridge is the observation deck of the ‘Severn View Services Station’ located on the English side. The SATNAV postcode for this location is: BS35 4BH. Please note that there is a 615 yard (564 metres) walk from the car park of the services area to the observation deck.
- At 354 km in length, the River Severn is the longest river in the British Isles. (The Shannon River is longer but is not entirely within the UK and is mainly in the Republic of Ireland.)
- The Severn Bridge has been used by more than 300,000,000 vehicles since it was opened in 1966.
- The main span of the Severn Bridge is 3,240 feet and carries two 24ft wide carriageways.
- Next year – 2016 – will be the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Severn Bridge.
- Many tourist mistakenly refer to it at the ‘Seven’ bridge but it is named after the River Severn which was originally called the Sabrina by the Romans.
Camping in the Forest Campsite
Bracelands Drive, Christchurch, Coleford
Gloucestershire, England, GL16 7NP
+44 (0)845 130 8224
- Address: (Viewing Deck) Severn View Services Area, J1 / M48, Aust, Gloucestershire, UK, BS35 4BH
- GPS: 51.6024263,-2.6201538000000255
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: BS35 4BH
- Entrance Fees: Charges Apply (for cars)
- Disabled Access: Good
- Visibility from Road: Excellent
- Image Credits: Chris Pole