Runcorn To Widnes Bridge Refurbishment

The newly refurbished Runcorn to Widnes Road Bridge (also known as The Silver Jubilee Bridge) was originally designed by Mott, Hay and Anderson with steelwork by Dorman-Long (Bridge and Engineering). Work began in 1956 and it opened in 1961. The road bridge was later widened to take extra traffic. The bridge spans both the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal and replaced a transporter bridge completed in 1905, whose abutments still survive. The road bridge is a foil to the wrought iron lattice girder railway bridge of the London and North Western Railway designed by William Baker and built between 1863 and 1868.

The bridge’s original design had to allow the passage of shipping along the Manchester Ship Canal. Many ideas were considered, including a new transporter bridge or a swing bridge but these were considered to be impractical and it was decided that the best solution was a high-level bridge upstream from the railway bridge. The main arch is 361 yards (330 m) long and each side arch measures 83 yards (76 m). During its construction 720,000 rivets were used. Its height over the river bed is 285 feet (87 m) and the headroom over the ship canal is 80 feet (24 m). During its initial construction 5,900 tons of steel were used and 7,500 tons of concrete.

In recent decades traffic on the bridge continued to grow to over 80,000 vehicles a day, and there was frequent congestion. In order to alleviate this, a further crossing was built, known as the Mersey Gateway. This is a six-lane toll bridge to the east of the Runcorn to Widnes Road Bridge which opened on 14 October 2017. Following the opening of the Mersey Gateway, the Runcorn to Widnes Road Bridge was immediately closed for maintenance and refurbishment. It has recently reopened to pedestrians and cyclist, with plans for it to reopen fully for vehicle use around summer/autumn 2020.

For more information on the bridge, its construction and history please visit its Wikipedia page here.

(photo by Jonathan Aylen)

About the Author: Jonathan Aylen

Jonathan Aylen is immediate Past-President of the Newcomen Society and Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research within Manchester Business School at the University of Manchester. A former economist, he now specialises in innovation management and environmental management. For the past decade he has also undertaken historical research.

Jonathan has contributed papers to the Newcomen Society’s International Journal of the History of Engineering and Technology on the transfer of steel technology from the USA to Wales, on early process control computers and on weapons design and development, including the Bloodhound Guided missile and the Blue Danube bomb.

Dr Aylen has travelled widely throughout the world steel industry, given advice to international bodies and governments on steel issues and commented frequently on television and radio. He recently published a book with Ruggero Ranieri, Ribbon of Fire, on how the wide strip mill for steel came to Europe from the USA.

Jonathan’s current research focuses on Cold War technology and, in particular, the use of American TOPS computer software by British Rail in the 1970’s.


  1. Fred Starr 30th April 2020 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    Could it have been the last major bridge to be pinned together with rivets?????

    If so, rather pathetic, despite its looks

  2. Dr P. N. Jarvis 7th May 2020 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    Nowt the matter with rivets. If one falls out of Queen Ethelfleda’s Bridge, there’s 719,999 left to hold bridge up.
    There were plenty of riveters around Liverpool, and especially Birkenhead, at the time.
    Some folk still use rivets.
    The Ffestiniog Railway came by a perfectly good rivetted boiler from Australia (at scrap metal price !), because nobody in Australia could certify a rivetted boiler and they had to build a new welded one. Eee, how wasteful.
    There’s them about who wouldn’t even know who Queen Ethelfleda was. She was a grand girl.

Leave A Comment

The maximum upload file size: 1 MB. You can upload: image. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here