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Newport Transporter Bridge
River Usk, Newport, Wales, UK
Newport Transporter Bridge
associated engineer
Ferdinand Arnodin
Robert Henry Haynes
date  1902 - 1906, opened 12th September 1906
era  Modern  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  ST316862
ICE reference number  HEW 144
photo  Chris Morris
Newport Transporter Bridge in South Wales crosses the River Usk about 2.4km south of Newport’s city centre. It is one of only three such bridges remaining in Britain. The Grade I listed structure has been restored and still carries vehicles and foot passengers.
The development of industry south of the city meant that workers needed an additional crossing downstream of the 19th century Newport Bridge (ST312884). However, the flat topography of the land between the city and the river’s mouth on the Severn Estuary precluded a conventional bridge, and a tunnel would have been too costly.
Robert Henry Haynes (1862-1910), the Newport borough engineer, was aware of early transporter bridges in France. He commissioned the innovative French engineer Ferdinand Arnodin (1845-1924) to design one for Newport, in preference to a lifting bridge. In 1900, Parliamentary approval was granted with detailed design work by Haynes and Arnodin completed in 1901. Apparently Arnodin worked in metric units while Haynes and the contractor used Imperial measures, causing some confusion and resulting in the finished structure being heavier than anticipated.
Arnodin’s concept is essentially an aerial ferry mounted on a slender steel support structure. It provides a relatively inexpensive river crossing with sufficient headroom for the masted ships of the time to pass underneath. The bridge deck has a clear headway of 53.9m above high water level.
The bridge spans 196.6m between towers, the tops of which are 73.8m above the level of the approach roads. Each tower consists of two open lattice pylons, near elliptical in elevation, constructed using riveted angles and plates. The pylon legs end in pin joints, bearing on bell-shaped masonry piers above steel (or possibly cast iron) caisson cylinders, 6.1m in diameter, filled with concrete. Each tower has four piers, founded in the bedrock marl 26.2m below the river banks.
The bridge ‘deck’ is a boom of two latticework primary girders spanning the river. The girders are stiffened with vertical members at 2m centres and braced diagonally with steel cables.
The design is similar to a suspension bridge. At the tops of the towers, saddles support 16 spiral strand suspension cables, each of 76mm diameter. Four are positioned to the inside and four to the outside of each of the main girders, which are 4.9m deep and 8m from centre to centre. The outer ends of the cables are anchored in massive 2,235 tonne masonry block chambers on each side of the river, 470.9m apart, founded on timber piles.
Vertical wire hangers connect the central portion of the boom to the suspension cables. Additional oblique stay cables connect the tops of the towers to the ends of the boom on either side of each tower.
Access to the boom is via stairs cantilevered from the north-east and south-west pylons. Flights of stairs — 11 on each pylon, 270 steps in all — zigzag upwards between platforms. A wire grille walkway stretches the full length of the boom.
Vehicles and pedestrians cross the river in a steel and timber gondola, 10.1m long and 12.2m wide. The gondola’s platform deck is at road level and was designed originally to hold pedestrians plus two four-wheeled vehicles with axle loads of 7.5 tonnes.
The gondola is suspended from a 31.7m long travelling frame, or trolley, by 30 steel ropes. The trolley runs on rails carried on the lower flanges of plate girders fixed to the undersides of the boom’s primary girders. The gondola and trolley together weigh 51.5 tonnes. They are propelled by continuous steel wire ropes wound on a drum driven by two direct current electric motors, each of 26kW, from a raised winding house adjacent to the east tower.
Newport Transporter Bridge was opened by Godfrey Charles Morgan (1831-1913, 1st Viscount Tredegar) on 12th September 1906. It cost £98,124 to construct. A halfpenny toll was charged, though the bridge never operated at a profit. By 1919, it was costing the borough around £6,000 per year to maintain.
In 1946, the toll was abolished. A charge of sixpence remained in force for fearless pedestrians wishing to climb the tower stairs to cross the high-level walkway.
In 1957, the bridge was repainted and the cables supporting the gondola replaced. The boom anchor cables were replaced in 1969, with renewal of the main suspension cables and the stay cables in 1979. In February 1980, the bridge was Grade II listed as the "finest and largest transporter bridge in Great Britain, the only one in the UK by Arnodin".
In 1985, the bridge was closed to traffic owing to corrosion and wire breakages in the cables. Extensive steelwork restoration was carried out in 1991-5. Damaged hangers were replaced and new cables of galvanized steel wire fitted. The gondola was refurbished, enabling it to cross with up to six vehicles and 120 pedestrians at a maximum speed of 11kph (6.8mph). Crossings are suspended if wind speeds exceed 50kph (31.1mph). The bridge reopened on 15th December 1995.
In April 1996, gondola toll charges were reintroduced at a rate of 50p per vehicle. The bridge’s listing status was increased to Grade I. In 2005, a new bridge (ST325868) was completed upstream as part of the Newport’s Southern Distributor Road. Motorists soon found it more convenient to use the new road bridge and the flow of traffic using the transporter bridge declined.
More renovation began in 2008. On 30th July 2010, the transporter bridge reopened after a £1.225 million refurbishment project that included repainting all the steelwork. The toll was increased to £1 per vehicle, though there is no charge for pedestrians, bicycles or motor cycles.
A new building for the Newport Transporter Bridge Visitor Centre is located near the west tower. It is managed by the Friends of Newport Transporter Bridge, a charity founded in 1998 to promote and preserve the bridge.
Two other transporter bridges survive in England — Middlesborough Transporter Bridge (constructed 1911) and Warrington Transporter Bridge (built 1914-5). There are six known operational transporter bridges remaining in the world, including Newport and Middlesbrough, and a further three that are disused, including Warrington.
Contractor (1902-6): Alfred Thorne & Sons of Westminster
Contractor (1992-5): Structures of Teeside
Contractor (1994-5): Laing Industrial Engineering & Construction
Steelwork: Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Co
Cables: W.B. Brown & Co of Liverpool
Electrical apparatus: R.W. Blackwell Ltd of Westminster
Cabe renewal (1994-5): Bridon International
Research: ECPK
"Newport Transporter Bridge—an historical perspective" by B.R. Mawson and R.J. Lark, Proceedings of the ICE: Civil Engineering, London, Vol.138, pp.40-48, February 2000
reference sources   CEW Wales

Newport Transporter Bridge