Five facts about UK bridges

The Queensferry Crossing has joined the list of engineering feats spanning the UK’s rivers and gorges.

After tens of thousands of people enjoyed a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to cross the new Forth structure on foot, here’s a look at other British bridges with a claim to fame.

:: Longest

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The Bromford Viaduct carries the M6 over the River Tame valley. Pic: Peter Whatley

This is a tricky category because it depends how you quantify the bridge’s length. Is it the full span, or is it the distance from one side of a river, valley or gorge to the other?

It isn’t the most glamorous, but technically the Bromford Viaduct – spanning three-and-a-half miles over Spaghetti Junction between Castle Bromwich and Gravelly Hill in Birmingham – is the longest.

It was built between 1964 and 1972.

:: Oldest

The Tarr Steps crosses the River Barle in Somerset. Pic: Stefan Kuhn
Image:
The Tarr Steps crosses the River Barle in Somerset. Pic: Stefan Kuhn

Another difficult one to confirm, but the oldest standing bridge could well be the Tarr Steps – a “clapper bridge” between Withypool and Dulverton in Somerset.

The Grade I listed building, built in medieval times, is formed of massive stones and spans 55m (180ft) across the River Barle in Exmoor National Park.

Owing to flood damage, the ancient structure has had to be repaired.

Legend claims the devil built the bridge so he could sunbathe on its stones.

:: Tallest

The Queensferry Crossing cost £1.35bn and is the UK's tallest bridge
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The Queensferry Crossing cost £1.35bn and is the UK’s tallest bridge

Costing £1.35bn, the newly-opened Queensferry Crossing reaches 207m (679ft) above the Firth of Forth – that’s the equivalent of 48 London buses stacked on top of each other.

Carrying the M90 between Edinburgh and Fife, the cable-stayed bridge is the third to cross the water and was finally opened to traffic on 30 August after almost six years of construction.

As it was built, remnants of a Mesolithic dwelling were discovered on the south bank of the Forth dating back to around 8300 BC – the earliest known dwelling in Scotland.

:: Most famous

Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge
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Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge

The star of blockbuster movies, Tower Bridge is one of the most recognisable features in the capital.

Opened in 1894, some 40,000 people cross the bridge every day.

Patriotic red, white and blue paint was added in 1977 as part of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations.

You can even watch the bridge live 24 hours a day on a HD webcam.

:: And finally…

The original stone facade from the 1830s version of London Bridge now resides in Lake Havasu City, Arizona
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The stone facade from the 1830s London Bridge now resides in Arizona. Pic: Ken Lund

London Bridge, the one in the nursery rhyme and a poem by T.S. Eliot, wins the award for the most travelled UK bridge.

The previous crossing was dismantled in 1967 and relocated more than 5,000 miles away to Lake Havasu City in Arizona.

Exterior granite blocks from the 1830s bridge now clad London Bridge in the US city, which was completed in 1971.

The current crossing in the UK capital was completed in 1973 and now carries the A3 over the River Thames.

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