|Location Map ( geo)|
|Gloucestershire • Somerset|
|Crossings related to the M5|
The Avonmouth Bridge carries the M5 over the River Avon in Avonmouth, near to Bristol. The 4,554'/1,388m long bridge is 4 lanes wide in each direction and has a parallel footpath and cycleway. The gradient of the approaches to the bridge is 3.8%.
Construction of the bridge started in 1969 and was completed in May 1974, filling in a gap on the M5 which had previously required travellers to cross the River Avon in Bristol city centre at the Cumberland Basin.
Strengthening and Widening
A government white paper, Roads for Prosperity highlighted that the M5 between junctions 15 (Almondsbury Interchange) and 21 (Weston super Mare) be considered for widening, including the Avonmouth Bridge. In the peak holiday periods it was not uncommon for 120,000 vehicles per day to cross the bridge, the highest volume of traffic in the South West. In June 1995 work commenced on strengthening the bridge to enable it to be reconfigured to allow 4 lanes in each direction and to allow heavier lorries to use the bridge.
The bridge was widened by removing the cycle path on the western side of the bridge to use as part of the main carriageway. The existing central reservation lighting was moved to the verge. After multiple delays and problems the works were eventually completed on Monday 29 January 2009 at a cost of £150million, approximately three times the original estimate and three years behind schedule.
On the 8th September 1999 while working under the bridge on a suspended platform, a 57 km/h gust of wind derailed the platform, leaving it suspended by a single point to the bridge. Four workers, Paul Stewart, Ronald Hill, Andrew Rodgers and Jeff Williams died in the accident. In March 2000, seven people connected with the contractors were arrested in relation to the accident, though a charge of corporate manslaughter was later dropped due to insufficient evidence. On 6 July 2001 the contractors (Costain and Kvaerner Cleveland Bridge) appeared in Bristol Crown Court for breaches of Section 3(i) of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act. The contractors admitted guilt, and in the following December were fined £500,000 plus £525,000 in costs, the judge stated that there were "widespread failings of the most serious nature"