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What is this site about?

Welcome to “Crossing the Severn Estuary” (, produced by the Severn Bridges Trust. This historical record charts the development of crucial road transport links between the South West England and the South of Wales, across the Severn Estuary.  We hope you enjoy using this site to gain insight into the challenges, both engineering and personal, that were faced by those who have striven over the years to meet the nation’s need to cross the Severn Estuary as safely and as quickly as possible.

Who is it for?

We have designed this site to appeal to the general public, to students and teachers, and also to engineering professionals. We want to assist those who wish to improve their understanding of the great achievements behind these important civil engineering and highway construction projects.  At the same time we hope to satisfy the curiosity of engineering students and professionals who are seeking more detailed information about these iconic structures, both of which were at the forefront of engineering when they were built.

How should I use this site?

Simple story

If you simply wish to see the story of the bridges unfold, you should read through the pages of the site as a single timeline.  We have written these pages for anyone with a general interest in the history of the crossings, and how they were built, using plain language to make the story easy to understand and follow.

The menu bar at the top of each page provides access to each of the four chapters of the website.  Choose a chapter by hovering with the cursor over the chapter title on the menu bar.  This will bring up a list of all the pages in that chapter.  Simply click on the one you want.  When you have finished reading that first page, you will have two options.  You could repeat the process described in the previous sentences of this paragraph, starting at the menu bar, to bring up any other page.  Or you could choose to follow the timeline sequence.  To do this you will need to bring up the next page in that sequence.  This can be done simply by clicking on the “Next Page” link that appears at the bottom of the page that you have just read and are about to leave.

Engineering detail

Mention has already by made of our decision to address engineering professionals and students with some of the finer technical points arising.  We have therefore woven in, behind the main story, a number of  pages of supplementary engineering detail, which appear with a slightly different background colour.  However, in order to avoid confusing readers who are not interested in additional detail, the system of navigation which provides access to these special pages has been kept separate  from the navigation system described in the previous paragraph.

The engineering detail can be found behind links located at the appropriate juncture in the main text. At the end of the general coverage of the specific item or subject, there will be a special link, marked “For more about (that subject)”.  If you follow these detailed diversions, you will find a link at the bottom of the detailed page, to effect a return to the point from which you had been diverted from in the main text. Those who are not interested in the additional detail, can simply ignore the presence of the occasional links that are embedded in the main text.

Watch the video

If you feel more comfortable watching a video introduction, there is also a short film “The Construction of the Second Severn Crossing” [].  This graphically demonstrates the challenges faced and magnificently overcome in the construction of that structure.


The text in this site is in the public domain, so you may copy and use it as you wish. Some images, photos and diagrams, on this site are marked in the caption as copyright for their creators, whom you should contact about re-use. All other images are in the public domain. Rights information for the videos can be found on YouTube.

Who created it?

The Severn Bridges Trust was formed in 1999 to promote public education in the engineering, environmental and associated disciplines involved in the planning, design, construction and maintenance of the Severn Road Crossings. The engineers who conceived, wrote, published and promoted this site are all Chartered Civil Engineers who were closely involved, in senior positions, with the design, construction and maintenance of one or both of the two bridges. They  were:

  • Robin Shaw, B.Sc., C.Eng., FICE, FCIHT
  • John Evans, BSc(Eng), ACGI, DIC, CEng, FICE, FWeldI
  • Andrew Hewitt, B.A., C.Eng., M.I.Struct.E., MICE
  • Keith Thomas, CBE, B.Sc., C.Eng., FICE, FCIHT
  • Edmund Bradley, OBE, B.Sc.,DMS, C.Eng.,MICE, MCIHT
  • Bill Gallagher, B.Sc., C.Eng., MICE, FCIHT

How can I find out more?

I think this is fascinating – is engineering for me?

A multitude of professions were involved in the design and construction of the two bridges. Information on career opportunities and a full list of engineering disciplines can be found at the Engineering Council web site []. Information on careers, jobs and more about Science, Engineering and Technology can also be found on the Scenta website [].

More detail on the engineering achievements

If you want to see more about the engineering detail behind the main pages, definitive records of all the major programmes of construction work involved are preserved in the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers,]. They were written, in accordance with normal professional practice by the Members of the Institution who had been engaged in the design and construction process.  There are three separate papers in the Proceedings on the construction of the Severn Bridge crossing, numbered 7138, 7117 and 7084.  They were placed there in 1969. The strengthening and refurbishment of the Severn Crossing is covered by seven papers (including No, 9845 and No. 9847), placed there in 1992. And the description of the design and construction of the Second Severn Crossing has been retained in Volume 120 of the Proceedings (Issue 6) since 1997.


More information

First Page

About Us

Severn Bridges Trust

The Trust was established as a charity in 1999 to promote public education in the engineering, environmental and associated disciplines involved in the planning, design, construction and maintenance of the Severn Crossings. The Trustees all being Chartered Civil Engineers who have had close involvement in senior positions with the design, construction and maintenance of one or both of the two bridges.


The Trust’s objectives are:

  • To provide a permanent record of the many professions and disciplines involved in construction using as illustration the First Severn Bridge, the Second Severn Crossing, together with their associated Approach Roads, the Severn Tunnel and the former ferry crossings of the Estuary;
  • To promote the web site for the general public, schools, colleges and universities each side of the Estuary and the national and international engineering professions;
  • To explain to the general public the broad spectrum of engineering disciplines and other professions involved.

Visitor Centre

The Trust operated the Severn Bridges Visitor Centre. After opening in December 1998 it attracted thousands of visitors a year. It housed an exhibition showing the history of the river crossings using interactive displays, video films, pictures, models and descriptions until closure in 2008.

Why have you published this site?

This website offers a permanent public display for the exhibition material from the Visitors Centre, expanded with engineering detail for those who are interested. Our goal is to provide and share information on the background to the need for and the construction of the Severn Bridge, opened in 1966, the Second Severn Crossing, opened in 1996, and information on earlier crossings of the Estuary. It celebrates the broad spectrum of engineering disciplines and other professions involved, and the environmental and construction achievements of these two crossings.

When was it created?

The main story of the crossings presented on this site is taken from the exhibition materials created ready for the Visitors Centre opening in 1998.

In 2009, when funds for a new exhibition building in the M48 Service Area at Magor, which the Trust was contemplating using for its Exhibition, were withdrawn, the Trust chose to create a virtual exhibition instead. Then in 2012, they recognised that publishing a more detailed website might also attract engineering professionals and academics, and chose to add materials of deeper interest and more technical value. The very detailed papers available in the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, that describe the works covered by the web site and which were written by the engineers who had been responsible for doing the work, helped the trustees greatly when writing about the engineering detail behind the main pages.

The web site was completed and published in 2016, to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the Severn Bridge, and the 20th Anniversary of the completion of the Second Severn Crossing.

Who else has supported this effort?

The Trust has received financial support from sponsors across the construction industry, including consultants, contractors, suppliers, professional bodies, other trusts and from the Government Transport Departments.  The Trustees are most grateful for the support received from these many organisations in establishing the Trust and in supporting its work.  They are  particularly grateful to Stephen Jones for his agreement to the inclusion of material from his published books relating to earlier crossings of the estuary, and to Neil Thomas of Photographic Engineering Services for his agreement to the inclusion of a number of his excellent photographs that are to be found in the more detailed passages of the text that relate to the Second Crossing, which can be viewed using the appropriate “more information” links embedded in the Main Text.

The 12 minute video on the construction of the Second Road Crossing, which is located at the end of the penultimate  page of that chapter and entitled “Building the Second Bridge”, was made with financial support from the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation using original material made available to the Trust by the John Laing Trust and the British Film Institute. Copies of the DVD may be obtained at a cost of only £5 each, including postage and packing, by contacting

More information

First Page