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Silver Jubilee Bridge (Runcorn Road Bridge)
River Mersey, Runcorn to Widnes, Cheshire, UK
Silver Jubilee Bridge (Runcorn Road Bridge)
associated engineer
Mott Hay & Anderson
date  25th April 1956 - 31st July 1961, Jan 1975 - March 1977, 2004, 2009
era  Modern  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  SJ508835
ICE reference number  HEW 1063
photo  © David Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
At twice the width of Newcastle's Tyne Bridge, the main span of Runcorn Road Bridge is the longest steel arch in Britain, at 330m. Renamed the Silver Jubilee Bridge in 1977, this modern bridge replaced a transporter bridge of 1905 on the site (one of five built in Britain). It remains in constant use as the only road link (A533) between Runcorn and Widnes.
The arch is a two-pinned bowstring, designed to cope with the potential for oscillations generated in certain conditions by the adjacent railway bridge to the west. These were predicted by wind tunnel tests and meant that a suspension bridge was unsuitable.
The bridge clears the river by 22.9m. It crosses the Manchester Ship Canal with a side span of 76.2m, clearing the water by 24.4m. A similar side span is located on the north side. It was built with a 10.1m wide carriageway of three lanes and two 1.8m footpaths, which covered the service ducts.
The foundation level of the Widnes (north) side is approximately 3m below the Runcorn (south) approach. In plan, the Widnes approach has a curve of 566m radius, with a tighter bend of 225m radius on the Runcorn side. The bridge’s main skewback piers are of concrete founded on soft sandstone, and are designed to withstand 3,000 tonnes of resultant thrust from each truss at a maximum pressure on the rock of 65.6 tonnes/sq m.
To minimise costs, the steel lattice arch is riveted rather than welded. The deck is of reinforced concrete supported on steel beams, suspended from the arch by 48 wire ropes set at 12m intervals. It is not restrained against longitudinal movement — the lateral bearing at each end consists of a pin sliding in a longitudinal slot. Bespoke expansion joints at each end of the deck are of rubber sandwiched between manganese steel plates above a phosphor bronze strip.
Runcorn Bridge cost a little over £2.4m to construct. Site work began on 25th April 1956, with bridge building commencing in March 1958 and the arch being completed in November 1960.
The roadway was widened to 13.5m and four lanes between January 1975 and March 1977. A single 1.75m wide footpath is cantilevered off one side of the road deck. In March 1988 the bridge was designated a Grade II listed building and from 1994 it has been illuminated at night.
In summer 2004, ten expansion joints were replaced and the dual carriageway was waterproofed and resurfaced in asphalt. This included replacing the bespoke expansion joints at the ends of the main span with Maurer joints, and installing new shock absorbers to limit longitudinal movement.
In 2009 deck refurbishment, corrosion protection and repainting was carried out from underneath, using an access tower and a moveable 84m long suspended platform with a 1.2m wide below-deck walkway between. This kept traffic flowing during the work — more than 90,000 vehicles can cross the structure daily. The hangar wires have also been subject to maintenance work.
Resident engineer: A.A. Cairncross
Design engineer (2004) Mott MacDonald
Contractors: Leonard Fairclough Ltd and Dorman Long & Co Ltd
Contractor (1975-7): Dorman Long & Co Ltd
Contractor (2004): Mowlem
Contractor (2009): Balvac
Research: ECPK
bibliography
"Discussion. Runcorn-Widnes Bridge" by J.K. Anderson et al, in ICE Proceedings, Vol.32, pp.673-690, December 1965
www.ice.org.uk
www.mersey-gateway.org
www.nce.co.uk
www.transportheritage.com
reference sources   CEH North
Location

Silver Jubilee Bridge (Runcorn Road Bridge)