The Humber Bridge, Lincolnshire/East Yorkshire
|Carries||4 lanes of motor traffic (A15), pedestrian/cycleway either side|
|Locale||Hessle, East Riding of Yorkshire/North Lincolnshire|
|Maintained by||The Humber Bridge Board|
|Total length||2,220 m (7,280 ft; 1.38 mi)|
|Longest span||1,410 m (4,626 ft)|
£151,000,000 including interest at completion
|Opened||To traffic on 24 June 1981
Officially on 17 July 1981
|Daily traffic||120,000 vehicles per week|
Location within United Kingdom
The Humber Bridge, near Kingston upon Hull, England, is a 2,220-metre (7,280 ft) single-span suspension bridge, which opened to traffic on 24 June 1981. It was the longest of its type in the world when opened, and is now the seventh-longest. It spans the Humber (the estuary formed by the rivers Trent and Ouse) between Barton-upon-Humber on the south bank and Hessle on the north bank, connecting the East Riding of Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire. When it opened in 1981 both sides of the bridge were in the non-metropolitan county of Humberside until its dissolution in 1996. The bridge itself can be seen for miles around and as far as Ottringham in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
As of 2006[update], the bridge carried an average of 120,000 vehicles per week. The toll was £3.00 each way for cars (higher for commercial vehicles), which made it the most expensive toll crossing in the United Kingdom. As of 1 April 2012, the toll was reduced to £1.50 each way after the UK government deferred £150 million from the bridge's current debt.
Before the bridge opening, commuters would go from one bank to the other either by using the ferry that ran between Hull and New Holland, Lincolnshire or by driving via the M62, M18 and M180 motorways, crossing the River Ouse near Goole (connected to the Humber) in the process. There was also a short-lived hovercraft service; Minerva and Mercury linked Hull Pier and Grimsby Docks from February to October 1969, but suffered frequent mechanical failures.
Plans for a bridge were originally drawn up in the 1930s, and were revised in 1955, but work did not begin until 27 July 1972. The Humber Bridge Act, promoted by Kingston Upon Hull Corporation, was passed in 1959. This established the Humber Bridge Board to manage and raise funds to build the bridge and buy the land required for the approach roads. However, raising the necessary funding proved impossible until the 1966 Hull North by-election. To save his government, Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson prevailed upon his Minister of Transport Barbara Castle to sanction the building of the bridge. Dismay at the long wait for a crossing led to the writing by Christopher Rowe of a protest song entitled "The Humber Bridge".
The bridge opened to traffic on 24 June 1981. It was opened officially by Elizabeth II on 17 July 1981. The consulting engineers for the project were Freeman Fox & Partners — now Hyder Consulting. The main contractor for the superstructure was British Bridge Builders (the same grouping as for the Forth and Severn Road Bridges comprising Sir William Arrol & Co then a unit of N.E.I Cranes Ltd, the Cleveland Bridge & Engineering and Redpath Dorman Long Ltd). The contractor for the sub-structure was John Howard & Co Ltd.
With a centre span of 1,410 metres (4,626 ft) and a total length of 2,220 metres (7,283 ft), the Humber Bridge was the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world for 17 years, until Japan's Akashi Kaikyō Bridge opened on 5 April 1998. The road-distance between Hull and Grimsby was reduced by nearly 50 miles (80 km) as a consequence of the bridge.
The bridge's surface takes the form of a dual carriageway with a lower-level foot and cyclepath on both sides. There is a permanent 50 mph (80 km/h) speed limit on the full length of the bridge.
Each tower consists of a pair of hollow vertical concrete columns, each 155.5 m (510 ft) tall and tapering from 6 m (20 ft) square at the base to 4.5 m × 4.75 m (14.8 ft × 15.6 ft) at the top. The bridge is designed to tolerate constant motion and bends more than 3 m (10 ft) in winds of 80 mph (129 km/h). The towers, although both vertical, are 34 mm (1.3 inches) farther apart at the top than the bottom due to the curvature of the earth. The total length of the suspension cable is 71,000 km (44,000 miles). The north tower is on the bank, and has foundations down to 8 m (26 ft). The south tower is in the water, and descends to 36 m (118 ft) as a consequence of the shifting sandbanks that make up the estuary.
The bridge held the record for the world's longest single-span suspension bridge for 16 years from its opening in July 1981, until the opening of the Great Belt Bridge in June 1997, and was relegated to third place with the opening of the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge in April 1998. It is now the seventh longest single-span suspension bridge. The central span, at 1410 m (4640 ft), is the UK's longest. It remains the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world that one can cross on foot or by bicycle. The bridge is crossed twice during the annual Humber Bridge half marathon.
Toll update project
In July 2013, work began on introducing a new electronic tolling system. The existing Humber Bridge toll system is largely the same as it was when the bridge opened in 1981, and uses a computer system that is over 15 years old. This obsolete technology requires an increasing amount of maintenance and needs replacing.
Phase one of the project focused on updating the infrastructure and saw all the toll booths replaced as well as the toll plaza canopy. Phase two concentrates on writing, testing, and setting up the new toll system. The project is scheduled for completion by spring 2015.
Once completed, bridge users will be able to set up an account with the bridge and pay into it. Account holders will get a device called the Humber Tag, a small electronic tag that that will enable the system to recognise the bridge user and the toll will be then automatically deducted from the user’s account. This will mean that account holders will spend less time queuing at the toll booths.
The two central lanes through the plaza will be free-flow lanes: they will not have any booths and account holders will be able to cross the Humber Bridge without stopping.
The project to update the tolls and the resulting decrease in waiting times has been welcomed by business and transport leaders.
Incidents and suicides
During construction of the bridge, the road deck sections were floated up on barges then hoisted into place by cables. During one of these lifting operations some of the cables on one of the road deck sections failed, leaving the section hanging at an angle. The section was, however, subsequently rescued and used.
More than 200 incidents of people jumping or falling from the bridge have taken place since it was opened in 1981; only five have survived. Between 1990 and February 2001 the Humber Rescue Team launched its boat 64 times to deal with people falling or jumping off the bridge. Notable incidents include the cases of a West Yorkshire woman and her two-year-old daughter who fell off the bridge in 2005, a mother who killed herself and her 12-year-old son with Fragile X Syndrome in April 2006, and that of a man jumping from the bridge to his death on the A63 road below in September 2006. As a result, plans were announced on 26 December 2009 to construct a suicide barrier along the walkways of the bridge; design constraints were cited as the reason for non-implementation before this time.
The bridge has a toll charge of £1.50 for cars. Until 1 April 2012 the Humber Bridge was the only major toll bridge in the United Kingdom to charge tolls to motorcycles (£1.20); others such as the Severn crossings and the Dartford Crossing are free. In 2004, a large number of motorcyclists held a slow-pay protest, taking off gloves and helmets and paying the toll in large denomination bank notes. Police reported a tailback of 4 miles (6 km) as a consequence of the protest.
In 1996, the British Parliament passed the Humber Bridge (Debts) Act 1996 to reorganise the Humber Bridge Board's debts to ensure the bridge could be safely maintained. Although a significant proportion of the debt was suspended in that refinancing arrangement there was no "write off" of debt and the suspended portion is being gradually re-activated as the Bridge Board pays off the remainder of the active debt.
In 2006 a Private Member's Bill — sponsored by Cleethorpes Labour MP Shona McIsaac — relating to the Humber Bridge, was introduced into Parliament. The Humber Bridge Bill would have made amendments to the Humber Bridge Act 1959 "requiring the secretary of state to give directions to members of the Humber Bridge Board regarding healthcare and to review the possibility of facilitating journeys across the Humber Bridge in relation to healthcare". The aim was to allow people who travel from the southbank to the northbank for medical treatment to cross the bridge without paying the toll, and to allow the Secretary of State for Transport to appoint two members of the Humber Bridge board to represent the interests of the NHS. Even though the Bill received cross-party support (it was co-sponsored by Shadow Home Secretary David Davis, and supported by all other MPs representing North Lincolnshire and the East Riding of Yorkshire) it ran out of time later that year.
A protest at the bridge on 1 September 2007 was supported by the local Cancer Patients Involvement Group, the Road Haulage Association, Yorkshire and Humberside MEP Diana Wallis and local business and council representatives. The government responded to the petition on 14 January 2008, stating that "Concessions or exemptions from tolls on the Humber Bridge are a matter for the Humber Bridge Board."
In October 2008, a joint campaign was launched by the Scunthorpe Telegraph, Hull Daily Mail and Grimsby Telegraph to abolish the fee for crossing the Humber. The papers' A Toll Too Far campaign garnered much support from councillors and MPs serving Lincolnshire and Humberside and was launched in response to a mooted increase in the cost of bridge crossings. The campaign's aim was not only to stave off any potential increase in crossing charges, but to ultimately see the costs abolished. A reduction to a £1 charge for bridge crossings was a sought-after alternative. Thousands of readers backed the campaign with a paper and an online petition.
A public inquiry into the tolls was held in March 2009 by independent inspector Neil Taylor. In July 2009, the Department for Transport announced that it had decided not to allow the proposed increase. Transport Minister Sadiq Khan said he did believe it was right for the tolls to be raised in the current economic climate. In October 2009, the government approved a £6 million grant for maintenance costs, which meant that there would be no toll increase before 2011 at the earliest, by which time tolls would have been frozen for five years.
The Humber Bridge Board applied again to the Department of Transport in September 2010, to raise the tolls from April 2011, but the Government ordered a public inquiry to be held into the application. A three-day public inquiry was held in Hull in early March 2011. Following the recommendation by the planning inspector the Government gave approval, on 14 June 2011, for the increase to go ahead. The toll was raised on 1 October 2011, at which point it became the most expensive toll crossing in the United Kingdom. The Severn Bridge and Second Severn Crossing charge a toll of £5.70, but this is only collected in one direction.
In the 2011 Autumn Statement on 29 November, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced that the Government had agreed to reduce the debt on the bridge by £150 million, which would allow the toll for cars to be halved to £1.50. Following the government accepting the agreement, between the four local councils, to underwrite the remaining debt Transport Secretary Justine Greening confirmed the reduction in tolls on 29 February 2012. This was implemented in April.
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