25 April 2020
28 March 2020
In the early 19th century, Scottish civil engineer Thomas Telford (1757-1834) built the A5 road as the main London-to-Dublin mail route. The current ‘Pont Pen-y-benglog’ bridge over the Afon Ogwen was built to replace a difficult, steep section of the earlier coach route at the western end of Llyn Ogwen. The surviving arch of the earlier, medieval pack-horse bridge can be seen below the present one.
25 August 2018
The Mersey Gateway Bridge is a 2.3 km-long, 6-lane, cable-stayed bridge carrying the A533 road over the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal. The £600 million bridge links Runcorn and Widnes and is maintained by Halton Borough Council. Construction of the bridge, designed by Knight Architects, commenced in 2014 and it opened in 2017. It was built to relieve congestion on the Runcorn through-arch bridge, which opened in 1961 and was renamed the Silver Jubilee Bridge in 1977. This in turn had replaced a Victorian steam-powered transporter bridge that could convey four cars at a time across the Mersey.
When the new bridge opened the old one was closed for refurbishment and it will reopen as a toll bridge (it was previously free to cross). The tolls on the Mersey Gateway Bridge itself operate using automatic number plate recognition and must be paid online within 24 hours. This has proved to be highly controversial with criticisms of unclear signposting. In the first month 50,000 motorists were issued with penalty charge notices for failure to pay the toll. In 2018 tribunals ruled that the tolls and penalties were in fact in breach of consumer and transport legislation because of improper implementation. The charges continue to be imposed, however, as the rulings were for specific cases and technically do not have general effect.
22 August 2018
Connel Bridge carries the A828 road over Loch Etive and links the villages of Connel and North Connel. The crossing is at the narrowest point of the sea loch at the tidal rapids The Falls of Lora, five miles from Oban. The bridge span between its piers is 160 m.
The Category B listed steel cantilever bridge was designed by English civil engineer John Wolf Barry (1836 – 1918) and was built by Glasgow contractors Arrol’s Bridge & Roof Company, who also constructed the Forth Bridge.
The bridge opened in 1903 to carry the Ballachulish branch line of the Callander and Oban Railway. A roadway was added next to the railway line in 1914 and when the branch line closed in 1966 the bridge was converted for pedestrian and road vehicle use only via a single-track roadway with traffic lights.
Transport Scotland is currently considering options for refurbishment of the structure over the next five years.
25 June 2017
Hydro Ogwen is a community hydro-electric generation scheme on the Afon Ogwen owned and operated by Ynni Ogwen Cyf (Ogwen Energy Ltd), a company established in 2015 to complete the development of the project and to manage it thereafter. The venture was financed by £450k raised via a community share offer and profits are to be distributed for the benefit of the local community.
Family-run contractors Gwyn Roberts Construction, based near Bala, carried out the building work, which started in July 2016 and was mostly completed by March 2017. The 100 kW generator, whose estimated annual output will be 500 MWh, is driven by a turbine fed via a 900 mm diameter pipe buried under the Lon Las Ogwen path with water abstracted from the intake weir, approximately 300 m upstream, just above the waterfalls at Ogwen Bank.
28 May 2016
Standing 138 m tall, St John’s Beacon was designed by Birmingham architects James A Roberts Associates and was originally intended as a ventilation shaft for the shopping centre below. It was constructed from 1965 to 1969 and in the 1970s it featured the revolving Tower Restaurant together with an observation deck. The restaurant closed in 1978 and briefly re-opened in the 1980s. The tower was renovated in 1999 and re-opened in 2000 as Radio City 96.7, leading to the structure’s alternative local name of the Radio City Tower. In 2011 a viewing gallery was opened to the public.
5 March 2016
The history of Colwyn Bay’s Grade II listed pier, which opened in 1900, was covered in more detail in a previous article from five years ago. In the meantime, the historic structure has continued to rot away as the legal wrangling over its ownership has continued and Conwy council has shown little commitment to its preservation and ultimately declared its intention to demolish the pier. The major events in the story to date are summarised in the timeline below.
1899-1900 Pier is built to design by architects Maynall & Littlewood.
1920s Colwyn Bay Urban District Council buys the pier from the original owners the Victoria Pier Company.
1950s The popularity of the pier and its entertainments are in decline.
1960s The local council sells the pier to a Trust House Forte subsidiary.
1970s The pier pavilion, branded as The Dixieland Showbar, is a popular music-concert venue. Parkers Leisure purchases the pier.
1991 The pier closes and subsequently suffers from vandalism and arson.
1994 Mike Paxman buys the pier and undertakes some restoration work.
2003 Steve Hunt buys the pier and undertakes some repairs. The entrance buildings and part of the promenade open with the pavilion being used for special events.
2008 The pier closes when Hunt is declared bankrupt over a dispute with Conwy County Borough Council over business rates and council tax. The pier passes to a bankruptcy trustee.
2011 Estimated costs for a ‘basic renovation’ and demolition are £3.5 million and £1 million, respectively. Conwy council votes to purchase the pier. The trustee ‘disclaims his interest’ in the pier in order to avoid any future liability after part of it fell off onto a public thoroughfare. The pier then passes to the Crown Estate.
2012 In March Conwy council buys the pier for £36,000 using a grant from the Welsh Assembly Government. Ownership is disputed by Hunt, saying that it should have reverted to himself three years after the bankruptcy. In April Mold County Court rules that ownership should be determined at a later hearing. The Heritage Lottery Fund rejects the council’s bid for a £4.9 million grant to restore the structure. In August Cardiff County Court rejects Hunt’s claim of ownership.
2013 In April the High Court in London reserves judgement on Hunt’s appeal against the outcome of Cardiff County Court’s decision. In May the Heritage Lottery Fund awards almost £600,000 to Conwy council to develop restoration plans. With estimated costs of over £15 million to restore the pier, the council votes in December to de-list and demolish it.
2014 Conwy council returns the Heritage Lottery Fund grant in February.
2015 In January the council decides to await the decision of the Heritage Lottery Fund in respect of campaign group Colwyn Victoria Pier Trust’s £9.6 million bid for funding. The campaign group meets with the Heritage Lottery Fund in February. In May the Lottery grant application is rejected on the grounds that given the lack of support from Conwy council the project was deemed to have too high a risk. The council proceeds with its application for listed building consent to demolish the pier. In October, however, the Welsh Assembly Government rejects the council’s demolition request. The High Court rules that it would be ‘inappropriate’ to return the pier to Hunt, who then lodges an appeal against the decision.
2016 Conwy council starts work in January on a second application for consent to demolish Victoria Pier. Estimated costs for demolition are between £1m and £2m.
28 October 2015
Conwy Suspension Bridge was one of the world’s first road suspension bridges. Designed by Scottish engineer Thomas Telford (1757-1834), the bridge was built between 1822 and 1826 to carry the A5 road as part of the London-to-Dublin mail route. Its design is similar to that of the Menai Suspension Bridge – another of Telford’s creations – which was constructed at the same time and as part of the same route.
The bridge has a main span of 99.7 m and it crosses the Afon Conwy next to Conwy Castle. It replaced a ferry that operated at the same location.
The transport link across the river was augmented in 1849 when the tubular railway bridge alongside the road bridge was officially opened. The rail bridge carried the Chester and Holyhead Railway (now the North Wales Coast line) and was designed by Robert Stephenson (1803-1859). The wrought-iron box-girder construction is similar to that of his original Britannia Bridge, which opened in 1850, was destroyed by fire in 1970, and then rebuilt to a different design.
The narrow Conwy Suspension Bridge served as the main roadway into Conwy until it was superseded by a modern road bridge, which flanks the suspension bridge on the opposite side from the rail bridge, in 1958. The newer road bridge still carries local traffic, but was itself superseded when the A55 North Wales Expressway bypassed the town via the Conwy Tunnel, which was constructed between 1986 and 1991.
The suspension bridge is now only open to pedestrian traffic and is in the care of the National Trust. It was re-painted in 2007-2008 as part of a £400,000 renovation project. Both the suspension bridge and the adjacent railway bridge have Grade I listings.
|Date||3 April 2015|
|Location||Chirk, Wrexham County Borough||SJ 28672 37378; 52.92904°N, 3.06254°W|
Chirk Aqueduct carries the Llangollen Canal over the Ceiriog Valley, with the river below forming part of the border between Wales and England. The aqueduct was built between 1796 and 1801 by Thomas Telford during the construction of the then Ellesmere Canal. The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct three miles to the north was also later built by Telford for the same canal.
Chirk Aqueduct’s ten arches span a total length of 220m, at a height of 21m above the River Ceiriog. The waterway is contained by a cast-iron trough between the stone side walls.
Alongside the aqueduct runs a complementary masonry arched viaduct, built by Henry Robertson in 1846-1848 for the Shrewsbury and Chester Railway. At the Welsh end of the aqueduct, the canal continues northwards through the 421m-long Chirk Tunnel, built in 1794-1802.
|Date||12 October 2014|
|Location||Holyhead||SH 24734 82469; 53.31006°N, 4.63213°W|
A ten-year regeneration strategy for the town of Holyhead was launched in 2003. A central element of this was improving access between the town centre and the ferry terminal and railway station, with the hopes of enticing more of the 2.4 million passengers using the port each year into the town and thereby improving its economy. Taking centre stage in the plans was the £7.5m Celtic Gateway project. This involved creating a walkway between the port’s railway station and the High Street and was funded by the EU Objective One programme, the Welsh Assembly Government and the erstwhile Welsh Development Agency. The pedestrian link comprises two bridges: a causeway bridge over the Inner Harbour and the adjoining Celtic Gateway Bridge crossing Victoria Road and the West Dock railway lines. The latter bridge was envisaged as an iconic landmark giving ferry visitors from Ireland a dramatic first impression of the town.
Work on the 128m-long, 4m-wide causeway bridge, which was designed and built by Dartford-based multinational construction company Laing O’Rourke, commenced in February 2004. Construction of the Celtic Gateway bridge, which was designed by engineering consultants Gifford (now part of the Denmark-based international consulting group Ramboll), fabricated by Cimolai SpA in Italy, and assembled by Laing O’Rourke, started in November 2005 and was completed in October 2006.
The Celtic Gateway Bridge was built in lean duplex stainless steel and its 70m main-span is supported by two 15-tonne welded inclined-plane tubular arches 1m in diameter and 8m high. Three months after its opening there were complaints over unsightly brown stains forming on the bridge. It turned out that the contractors had incorrectly used iron bolts instead of stainless steel fittings and these were corroding with the rust staining the concrete.
|Date||6 September 2014|
|Location||Betws-y-Coed||SH 77984 56933; 53.09560°N, 3.82365°W|
|Date||26 August 2014|
|Location||Queensferry, Firth of Forth||NT 12534 78112; 55.98795°N, 3.40357°W|
Since the 11th century a ferry crossing over the Firth of Forth had served to link Edinburgh with Fife, which led to the growth of the two ports Queensferry and North Queensferry.
In 1883 construction of a railway connection started and the Forth Bridge opened in 1890. This Victorian bridge, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, was Britain’s first major steel structure and was until 1917 the world’s longest cantilever span.
Construction of the Forth Road Bridge alongside the rail bridge started in 1958 and it opened in 1964. The main span of the suspension bridge is 1006 m long and its total length is 2513 m. It was at the time the fourth longest span in the world and the longest in Europe. The Forth ferry service was discontinued when the road bridge opened. Tolls to cross the bridge were abolished by the Scottish Government in 2008.
The bridge was designed for 11 million vehicles per year. However, by 2006 the actual usage was 23 million. A structural survey in 2005 revealed a 10% loss in strength of the suspension cables due to corrosion. In light of the ensuing concerns over its long-term future, the decision to proceed with a replacement bridge, proposals for which had been put forward in the 1990s, was made in 2007 and construction of a cable-stayed bridge to the west of the Forth Road Bridge commenced in 2011. The new bridge, to be known as the Queensferry Crossing, is scheduled for completion in 2016, after which the existing road bridge will remain in use only for public transport, cyclists and pedestrians.
|Date||2 August 2014|
|Location||Betws-y-Coed||SH 79608 56528; 53.09233°N, 3.79926°W|
The Royal Engineers built a wooden footbridge over the Afon Conwy to link the village of Betws-y-Coed with an army camp on the opposite side of the river. The wooden bridge was washed away in a storm and was rebuilt in 1930 by Westminster-based engineers David Rowell & Co. This company, originally producing fencing and later also wrought iron and wire rope, was founded in 1855 and shut down in 1970. In the first half of the 20th century it built a number of suspension footbridges.