|Location Map ( geo)|
|From:||Severn View Services|
|Abolished: Removed on 19.12.18|
|Crossings related to the M48|
The Severn Bridge is a suspension bridge carrying road, cycle and foot traffic over the estuary of the River Severn. It was opened as a part of the M4 motorway in 1966, having cost £8M to construct, and was renumbered to the M48 when the Second Severn Crossing opened in 1996.
Cycle and foot traffic is carried via walkways separated from the main carriageway on both sides of the bridge.
Contrary to popular belief, the bridge does not form part of the border between England and Wales. What is commonly referred to as the "Severn Bridge" amounts to a combination of the bridge itself, a section of motorway over the Beachley Penninsula, and the Wye Bridge. It is the latter bridge that crosses the border.
The bridge was tolled between opening and 2018. Originally, tolls were payable in both directions, but the arrangement was later changed to avoid queuing on the bridge and after 1989 were collected only from westbound traffic. Toll charges were withdrawn on the Severn Bridge from 19 December 2018.
Proposals for a bridge or barrage across the River Severn – allowing traffic from Bristol to Newport to avoid a 60-mile detour via Gloucester, or the Aust Ferry which carried light traffic only – had been proposed as early as the 1920s.
The scheme which eventually emerged was a key part of the motorway plan in the 1950s and was referred to as "Motor Road 7". Construction began in 1960 and was completed by September 1966. The bridge was opened by Queen Elizabeth II. A notable image of the bridge under construction can be seen on Bob Dylan's "No Direction Home" album.
This was the first section of M4 to be opened outside West London and the Home Counties. An all-motorway journey from Chiswick to Newport did not become possible until the gap through Berkshire and Wiltshire was completed in 1971.
By the late 1980s, traffic on the two-lane bridge had become excessive, so a three-lane bridge was planned further downstream. This opened as the Second Severn Crossing, taking the M4 number from the older bridge.
When it opened, an unusual agreement with Aust services was formed whereby in the event of an incident on the bridge, a recovery truck stationed at the services would drive either along the cycle path or (if the carriageway was blocked) the wrong way up the motorway, to reach the incident as quickly as possible. If it was on the cycle path, the recovery truck would then lift the stranded vehicle over the railings.
- Official page
- BBC News: Severn bridges: M4 Severn crossing reopens toll free (17.12.2018)
- Highways Magazine: Highways England takes financial hit on Severn bridges (03.01.2019)