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
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
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
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
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
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