By the tide of Humber

Humber Bridge, viewed from Hessle, East Yorkshire

Humber Bridge, viewed from Hessle, East Yorkshire

There’s no such place as Humberside.  The name was a confection arising out of the 1974 reorganisation of local government.  The non-metropolitan county disappeared in a further reorganisation in 1996, though the name remains in use by the police and fire-and-rescue authorities, a BBC radio station and an airport in North Lincolnshire.

If Humberside had any reality, its expression would be the beautiful suspension bridge that connects East Yorkshire with North Lincolnshire between Hessle and Barton-on-Humber.

The Humber Bridge [http://www.humberbridge.co.uk] is the epitome of elegant engineering, designed by Freeman, Fox & Partners with R E Slater as architectural adviser.  Its design is based on the first Severn Bridge (Freeman, Fox & Partners, 1966) – itself a revolutionary advance on its predecessors, such as the Forth Road Bridge of 1964.

Long awaited, it was authorised in 1959 by an Act of Parliament that established a Humber Bridge Board with the power to build it but no power to raise finance.  Even after Harold Wilson notoriously pressured his transport minister, Barbara Castle, to give a go-ahead to influence the Hull North by-election in 1966, construction work only began in 1972, and the bridge opened to traffic in 1980.

Until then, road journeys between Grimsby and Cleethorpes and the city of Hull required a hundred-mile detour via Goole or crossing on the New Holland ferry.

The main span is 1,410 metres, and the total length is 2,220 metres.  The towers, reaching 160 metres above high water, are both vertical but not parallel to each other:  they splay outwards because of the curvature of the earth so that their tops are 36mm (1.4 inches) further apart than the bases.  They also bend inwards in storm conditions, so that in an 80mph wind the deck can move more than three metres at the centre of the main span.

The Humber Bridge was, until 1998, the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was superseded by the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Japan (1,991 metres, 6,532 feet).  In 2014 it remains the seventh longest in the world and the longest in Britain.

Later proposals to incorporate it into the route of an East Coast Motorway, effectively an extension of the M11, appear to date from a conference called by the then Humberside County Council in July 1988:  http://motorwayarchive.ihtservices.co.uk/en/motorways/regions/eastern-england/the-east-coast-motorway-feasibility-study.

It has never come anywhere near to repaying its costs, so the Humber Bridge remains a toll crossing.  You can walk across for free, and there are concessions for disabled drivers.

Motorcyclists were subject to tolls, which provoked a particularly entertaining protest in 2004 when they turned up in force, each carefully removing helmet and gloves before offering high-denomination notes to the toll-keepers.  The motorcycle toll was removed, in line with the Dartford and Severn crossings, in 2012.

 

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