For centuries the Humber Estuary was a barrier to trade and development between the two banks. Local interests campaigned for over a hundred years for the construction of a bridge or tunnel across. There were ferries across the Estuary, but the route by road involved going to Goole, which is 29 miles from Hull and 53 miles from Grimsby.
Approval for the construction of a suspension bridge was granted in 1959 with the passing of the Humber Bridge Act and the creation of the Humber Bridge Board, although it was not until 1972 that work finally began. The reasons why a suspension bridge was chosen were twofold. First, the Humber Estuary has a shifting bed and the navigable channel along which ships can travel is always changing. Therefore, a suspension bridge with no support piers in mid-stream would not obstruct the estuary. Second, because of the geology and topography of the area, the cost of constructing a tunnel would have been excessive.
Work on the construction took eight years, during which time upwards of one thousand workers were employed at times of peak activity. Traffic first crossed the bridge on 24th June 1981 and on 17th July 1981 Her Majesty the Queen performed the formal opening ceremony.
The Bridge provided an opportunity for the Humber region to realise its potential in commercial and industrial development. The journey from Hull to Grimsby, for example, was reduced from 82 miles to 42.
The Bridge has saved many millions of vehicle miles and valuable hours of drivers’ and passengers’ time – an important factor not only for the drivers and operators of commercial vehicles but also for tourists who would have had to travel around the estuary to reach destinations in the region. The Bridge has also made a significant environmental contribution in reducing vehicle emissions.
The Humber Bridge Board is a statutory body, established by the 1959 Humber Bridge Act, and amended through subsequent legislation. This also includes the statutory roles of Highway and Traffic Authority. The Humber Bridge Act in 1959 followed the promotion of a parliamentary bill by the then Kingston upon Hull Corporation. This provided for the creation of the Humber Bridge Board (“the Board”) with the powers to: construct and afterwards operate and maintain the bridge and approach roads; to acquire the necessary land; and to borrow such sums as necessary to build the bridge and take tolls from vehicle users. The tolls are used to operate the Bridge, ensure it is maintained in a safe and serviceable condition and to repay the debt of the funding borrowed to construct it.
In 2017 the Humber Bridge was given Grade 1 listed status by Historic England, making it the longest listed structure in the UK.
Fast Facts about the Bridge
- The bridge crosses the Humber Estuary between Hessle, East Yorkshire and Barton upon Humber, North Lincolnshire.
- The bridge was the world’s longest single-span suspension bridge when it opened and held this record for 16 years.
- It is the UK’s longest single-span suspension bridge and now the eighth longest in the world.
- It remains the longest in the world that can be crossed on foot or by cycle.
- The bridge is made up of three spans; Hessle side span (280 metres), Barton side span (530 metres) and the main centre span (1410 metres) making a total of 2,200 metres or 1.4 miles.
- The road deck, which is made up of 124 steel box sections weighing over 17,000 tonnes is actually designed as an upside-down aircraft wing, to help keep the deck stable during high winds.
- The concrete towers are 155.5 metres (510 feet) tall and were built to be 36mm further apart from each other at the top than at the bottom, to allow for the curvature of the Earth.
- There is enough wire used in the bridge to go around the Moon more than six times.
- The bridge is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
- In February 2002, the 100 millionth vehicle crossed the bridge as part of the 6 million crossings that year. The bridge is now carrying more than 10 million vehicles every year.
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Human Resources Manager: Sharon Phillippi