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 the crucial road transport links between the South West of England and the South of Wales. We hope you enjoy using this site and gain some insight into the challenges, both engineering and personal, faced by those who have strived to meet our need to cross the Severn Estuary as safely and quickly as possible.

Who is this for?

We have designed this site to appeal to the general public, to students and teachers, and to engineering professionals alike. We want to make it easy for anyone to improve their understanding of the great achievements behind these important civil engineering and highway construction projects.

How should I use this site?

Simple story

If you simply want to see the story of the bridges unfold, then please follow the main pages in this site. We have written these for anyone with a general interest in the history of the crossings, and how they were built, using plain language to make them easy to understand and follow as a simple timeline. Start each chapter from the menu bar across the top, and at the foot of each page follow the link to the next. If you do wish to jump to a different topic, use the side menu on the right, or full list of main pages at the very bottom.

Engineering detail

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. We have woven a greater level of engineering detail in behind the main story and provided a link from the end of each relevant subsection, “for more about” that particular subject. If you follow any one of these detailed diversions, you will find a link at the bottom of the detailed page to return to where you were in the main text.
You should be aware that the arrangement described in the previous paragraph is the only means of gaining access to one of the more detailed sections of engineering detail. To avoid confusion, no general information about these arrangements has been included in the main text; the links simply appear, unheralded, at appropriate locations. If you wish to see a full list of the subjects for which further detail is available, click here. You will find a further link at the bottom of the list, to bring you back to this point.

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 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.

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 even more about the engineering detail behind the main pages, definitive records of each of the major programmes of construction work involved, have been preserved in the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, [http://www.icevirtuallibrary.com/toc/jcien/120/6]. They were written, in accordance with normal professional practice, by 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.