Bridges Across the Mersey: The Past, Present, and Future

56 years after the Silver Jubilee Bridge opened, residents of Cheshire have a new option to cross the historic river Mersey. Spanning 2.2 km between Runcorn and Widnes, the Mersey Gateway opened to the public on 14 October. With fireworks lighting up the night sky, the opening of the six-lane bridge ushered in a new era of river crossing in the Wirral Peninsula.

For many years, taking the train or ferry were the only ways to cross the river Mersey. But with the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1890s, the ferry journey became more complicated, making a new bridge crossing necessary. The result was the Widnes-Runcorn Transporter Bridge. Completed in 1905, it was the first and largest transporter bridge in the world. A rare type of bridge which took vehicles across the river with a moving platform, the transporter bridge was chosen as it was cheaper than orthodox bridges. The transporter could also be controlled to allow ships to pass.

The Transporter Bridge - Runcorn by Michael Jefferies is licensed under CC by 2.0 

As traffic in the region grew and the Widnes-Runcorn Transporter Bridge deteriorated, it became clear in the 1940s that a new bridge was needed. After a decade of planning, the Silver Jubilee Bridge began construction in 1956. The Widnes-Runcorn Transporter Bridge closed a day after the through arch bridge opened in 1961, and it has been serving motorists in the region ever since then.

Silver Jubilee Bridge by Catherine Singleton is licensed under CC by 2.0 

While the iconic Silver Jubilee Bridge provided a vital linkage between Widnes and Runcorn, it was frequently plagued by congestion as traffic far outstripped its capacity. Recognizing this problem, policymakers gave the greenlight to build the Mersey Gateway, with the aim of relieving congestion on the Silver Jubilee Bridge and stimulating development in the region.

From Catalyst Centre-3 by Gerald Murphy is licensed under CC by 2.0

To celebrate the opening of the Mersey Gateway, Samsung C&T newsroom shines a spotlight on the three bridges in the infographic below that have served millions of residents since the turn of the century.

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