The Second Severn Crossing (Ail Groesfan Hafren)


The Second Severn Crossing

The River Severn (Afon Hafren in Welsh) has a lot going for it. It is the longest river in Britain at 220 miles (345 km) and has, at times, a tidally-generated ‘bore’ up to 7ft in height, which travels up the river. The bore is a soliton, or self-reinforcing solitary wave. The Severn is not just the natural barrier between two countries, England and Wales, but is a major access point to the Western Approaches of the Atlantic Ocean, and, as such, has huge importance to shipping both in times of peace and during wartime. Engineers and business interests have always sought a way to directly cross the Severn Estuary, to link the commercial areas of of the West Country of England with South Wales. At last, in 1966, the Severn Bridge (near the old Aust Ferry) was opened by Queen Elizabeth II, and road traffic began to flow across the estuary.

Need outstripped capacity, and in 1996, Charles, Prince of Wales opened the Second Severn Crossing (Ail Groesfan Hafren). Further south than the original bridge – which is still in operation – it carries the M4 motorway between England and Wales, a distance of just over 5 km. The longest single span  (over the shipping channel) is 456 mts, and the height of the road deck above the water at that point is 37 mts. The pre-stressed concrete towers which carry the bridge’s suspension cables are no less than 149 mts high.

The photograph was taken through the windscreen of my hired car, on the way to visit my family in South Wales, during one of my periodic trips back to the UK.

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