The Runcorn-Widnes Transporter Bridge
A spectacular feat of engineering

ON July 22nd, 1961, the famous Runcorn-Widnes Transporter Bridge closed, to bring to an end a feat of engineering that had been a marvel in its day.

For over fifty years the Transporter had spanned 1,000 feet across the Mersey estuary and the Manchester Ship Canal.

Designed by J.J.Webster, of London, it cost £130,000 and was officially opened on May 29th, 1905, by the Liberal MP and chemical magnate, Sir John Brunner.

The need for some sort of bridge had been urgently needed for years, to supplement the first up-river crossing point at Warrington. Previously, and surprising as this may seem now, the estuary had also been forded at Hale and there had been a ferry linking Runcorn and Widnes since the 11th century.

By the end of the 19th century Runcorn had become a place of some importance as the terminus of the Bridgewater Canal, while Widnes had developed into a centre for heavy chemical manufacturing.

The Transporter was a spectacular enterprise and came about from 1899, following the passing of an Act of Parliament and the formation of a company to build and operate the bridge.
The total share capital was £100,000 of which sum the Widnes Corporation was responsible for £25,000 and the Runcorn Urban Council £10,000.

In spite of eleven petitions against the project, from various authorities and persons in Widnes and Runcorn, the Bill received royal assent on 10th July, 1900 and work duly commenced on what was to be then the largest span of any bridge in the United Kingdom for carrying road traffic.
The Conway Bridge had a span of 327ft, the Menai Suspension Bridge of 570ft and the Clifton Suspension Bridge 702ft.

The Widnes Foundry Company constructed the approach girders, the towers and the cylinder foundations which were braced together and bolted to solid rock. The Transporter itself had a platform 55ft long and 24ft wide, suspended by steel wire ropes under the bridge trolley.

Vehicles drove onto this small platform and the whole contraption was moved by electricity across the 1,000ft span. The transporter ran approximately every twenty minutes and could move some thirty-six vehicles an hour in each direction. The crossing took about four minutes.

By the time of its closure, and replacement by the modern Runcorn-Widnes Bridge, in 1961, the Transporter was estimated to have carried over one million foot passengers and a quarter of a million vehicles each year.