Cleddau Bridge

The Cleddau Bridge (Welsh: Pont Cleddau) is a toll bridge on the A477 road that spans the River Cleddau between Neyland and Pembroke Dock, Wales. It was originally called the Milford Haven Bridge, Due to errors in the box girder design it collapsed during construction in 1970 and did not become operational until 1975.

Toll booths are located on the Pembroke Dock side of the bridge. As of June 2007 the toll is £0.75 for cars & vans and £1.50 for buses and lorries over 2 tonnes; cycles and pedestrians are free of charge.

Despite the income from the tolls there is an excess in spending of about £600,000 per year, which led to calls of the bridge being adopted by the Welsh Assembly and the tolls being scrapped.

History

Prior to the bridge, the river Cleddau divided Pembrokeshire into two halves. The towns of Pembroke Dock on the south side and Neyland on the north side were less than 1 mile (1.6 km) apart across the water but a 28 miles (45 km) journey was required to travel between them via road. Between 1858 and 1950 the Admiralty permitted operation of steam ferries between the two towns. From 1950 to 1975, the County Council operated a ferry service, with capacity for 24 vehicles and 250 pedestrians. A decision was taken in the 1960s to replace the ferry service with a bridge. Two bridges would be built, the main Cleddau Bridge covering the Cleddau river and smaller bridge to cross the Westfield Pill creek. Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners and Freeman Fox and Partners (now part of Hyder Consulting) were appointed as joint consulting engineers and the contract to build the bridge was awarded to A.E. Farr Limited in September 1968 for £2.1 million.

The bridge was expected to be completed by March 1971, however on 2 June 1970 a 70 m (230 ft) cantilever being used to put one of the 150-ton sections into position collapsed on the Pembroke Dock-side of the estuary. Four workers died and five were injured although there were no casualties to members of the public living locally. Construction was halted until October 1972. The Merrison Committee of Inquiry into the Design and Erection of Steel Box Girder Bridges concluded that the cause of the collapse was the inadequacy of the design of a pier support diaphragm (a diaphragm of half the designed thickness was used), but considered "the failure of site organisation between the parties as of more general significance". The committee believed that the only relevant Code of Practice relating to the design of steel bridges in the UK was inadequate for applications such as the Cleddau Bridge, and they implemented Interim Design and Workmanship Rules. These rules lay the groundwork for a new British Standard covering box girder bridge design. As of 2007, the collapse during construction is regarded as the last major bridge disaster in the UK.

Construction was eventually finished, at a final cost of £11.83 million, and the bridge opened to traffic on 20 March 1975. £7 million of the overspend was attributed to design changes made due to the Merrison Committee's recommendations. This was covered by a £3 million out-of-court settlement between the County Council and the consulting engineers and a £4 million interest-free loan from the Government that was repayable over 40 years. 885,900 crossing were made during the bridge's first year in operation.

Tolls

The bridge is funded by tolls which are collected on the Pembroke Dock side of the bridge from traffic traveling in both directions. As pf June 2007, the toll rates have been in place since 1993 and are 35p for motorcycles, 75p for cars and £1.50 for heavy vehicles. Car drivers may also buy books of 20 or 50 bridge tickets which reduces the cost to 60p per crossing. The toll booths only accept cash or the pre-purchased tickets. Toll booths with barriers were introduced in September 2004 to reduce the number of people driving off without paying.

Closures

The county council may close the bridge depending on wind speed, wind direction and the weather forecast. Vehicles taller than 1.9 m (6 ft 3 in), bicycles and motorcycles are usually not permitted to cross the bridge when wind speeds exceed 50 mph (80 km/h). The bridge is closed to all vehicles and pedestrians should wind speeds exceed 70 mph (110 km/h). The council began recording the time the bridge was closed for in 2002 and as of 2006, the bridge was closed to high-sided vehicles for 238 hours and closed to all vehicles for approximately 36 hours.