What is this site about?

Welcome to “Crossing the Severn Estuary” (severnbridges.org), 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” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9tDRfzffI4].  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 [www.engc.org.uk]. Information on careers, jobs and more about Science, Engineering and Technology can also be found on the Scenta website [www.pwc.com/uk/careers].

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, https://www.icevirtuallibrary.com/toc/jcien/120/6]. 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