Severn BridgeCopyright: Andy Dingley

Severn Bridge

In 1926, a car ferry named Aust Ferry was set up to cross the River Severn between the West Country and Wales. It was originally used for pedestrians and bicycles but in 1934, the 'Severn Queen' was launched as a car ferry which was capable of carrying 17 cars.

Severn car FerryCopyright: Adrian Pingstone

The image above shows cars waiting to board the 'Severn Queen' and in the background you can see the Severn Bridge during its construction showing one of its towers and t he suspended cables.

The ferry was greatly affected by the huge 14.5 tidal range and was unable to operate with very high or very low tides and this proved to be a severe handicap. On 8th September 1966 the 'Severn Queen' made her last trip across the Severn River. The following day the Severn Bridge opened.

No Direction Album cover by Bob Dylan

The 'Severn Queen' appeared on the sound track cover of the Martin Scorcese film No Direction Home. In the background of the album cover it is clearly seen the Severn Bridge in its completed form so the picture could well have been taken during the last days of the ferry's operation.

The cables are made up of 29,000km (18,000 miles) strands each just 5mm in diameter. These strands of wire are then woven together to create the 2 main supporting cables. An interesting fact is that these cables are not aligned perfectly vertical and this is to allow minor movements during bad weather and also at times of heavy traffic use.

Queen Elizabeth II opened the bridge on 8th December 1966 and it was noted that the Queen herself recognised the economic benefit the bridge gave to Wales hailing it as a 'new economic era for South Wales'. The bridge was a direct motorway into Wales from England. It is estimated that since the bridges opening there have been in excess of 300 million vehicles have made the crossing.

The £8 million price tag was to be covered by the use of tolls which have steadily increased year on year and this has caused much concern to Welsh businesses who see the toll as a form of taxation. In 2016, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne pledged that by 2018 the toll will be halved. From 1st January 2017 the toll charges were at their highest - vehicles with 9 passenger seats (Category 1) was £6.70, commercial vehicles up to 3,500kg and buses with up to 17 seats (Category 2) was £13.40 and commercial vehicles over 3,500kg (Category 3) the charge was £20.00 per crossing.

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