History of The Humber Bridge

humber bridge

The Humber Bridge, near Kingston upon Hull, England, is a 2,220-metre (7,280 ft) single-span suspension bridge, a bridge anchored between two supports with no middle support. The history of the bridge is long, witch discussions for a crossing taking place one-hundred years before the bridge was built.

The bridge spans the Humber estuary formed by the rivers Trent and Ouse between Barton-upon-Humber on the south bank and Hessle on the north bank, connecting the East Riding of Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire.

Pre-bridge history

Before the bridge opened, commuters would use the Humber Ferry to get from one bank to another, or drive on challenging roads south across the moors. The high accident rates lead to debates in Parliament where first a Humber tunnel, an idea thrown out due to excessive cost, and then a Humber Bridge was considered.

Plans for a bridge were originally drawn up in the 1920s, and were revised in 1955 leading to The Humber Bridge Act, 1959. The Act established the Humber Bridge Board to manage and raise funds to build the bridge and buy the land required for the approach roads.

Raising the money proved a challenge, but work on the bridge began on 27 July 1972. Technical difficulties and poor weather conditions meant that construction work took eight years, twice as long as predicted. Upwards of one thousand workers were employed at times of peak activity.


Whilst design ideas for the Humber Bridge had been offered since the 1920’s, by the time it was considered likely that a bridge would be constructed, the 1964 design from Bernard Wex OBE was selected.

A suspension bridge design was chosen as the Humber estuary has a shifting bed and navigable channel along which a craft can travel, so there was a need not obstruct the estuary. As part of the design, to accommodate the curvature of the earth, the towers were designed such that they are 36mm further apart from each other at the top than they are at the bottom.

The roadway is streamlined to cope with wind resistance, but the bridge is closed when the wind is in excess of 80mph when the bridge can bend 3 metres in the middle.

The architect was R.E. Slater ARIBA. The toll building was designed by Parker & Rosner. Landscaping was designed by Prof Arnold Weddle.


End to end the bridge is 1.4 miles long, with two towers 155.5 metres high. The road part of the bridge is up to 30m above the water.

The history of the construction began with the southern approach road in July 1972. Bridge foundations began in March 1973. It took longer to build the southern anchorage due to a diaphragm wall design necessary due to the paucity of shallow bedrock. The main southern approach roads opened in 1978.

The north tower was completed by May 1974 and the Southern tower was completed in September 1976. With enough cable to nearly go around the earth twice, cable spinning took took almost 2 years with the cable on the northern span having four extra strands. Work began on the administration building in November 1976.

Initial estimates were that the bridge would cost £28m to build. The final cost was calculated at £98m.


The bridge opened to traffic on 24 June 1981. It was opened officially by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 17 July 1981.

Vehicle numbers

Between 2002-2012 the bridge carried an average of 6.5 million vehicles per year. By 2012 the toll was £3.00 each way for cars with a sliding scale up to £20.30 for the largest commercial vehicles, making it the most expensive toll crossing in the United Kingdom. In April 2012, thanks to the UK government deferring £150 million from the bridge’s debt, the toll was reduced to £1.50 for each single car journey and the highest toll was £12. Since the reduction of the toll fee, the number of vehicles has steadily risen to a high of 8.5 million vehicle journeys each year. In November 2015 the Humber Bridge Toll Project introduced an electronic tag system linked to an online account enabling drivers to cross the bridge and automatically pay the toll without stopping.

World record

When it was first built the Humber Bridge the longest single span bridge in the world and was cited by some as “the eighth wonder of the world”. This record stood until June 1997 when The Great Belt Bridge was completed in Denmark. Today, the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge in Japan (opened April 1998) heads the list of the longest single span bridges in the world at 1991 metres.
The bridge is now the seventh longest of its type in the world, however it remains the longest bridge that you can cross by bicycle or foot.