Runcorn Railway Bridge

Runcorn Railway Bridge

bridge_name=Runcorn Railway Bridge

caption=Runcorn Railway Bridge
carries=Liverpool branch of the West Coast Main Line
crosses=River Mersey
locale=Runcorn, Cheshire
designer= William Baker

lat= 53.346158
long= -2.73772

The Runcorn Railway Bridge crosses the River Mersey at Runcorn Gap from Runcorn to Widnes in Cheshire, England. It was built for the London and North Western Railway to a design by William Baker, chief engineer of the railway company.Cowan, C. A. "Crossing the Runcorn Gap, Vol. 3: Runcorn Railway Bridge", Halton Borough Council, 1990.] It is a Grade II* listed building. [ Images of England] , accessed 17 July 2007]


In 1846 the Grand Junction Railway Company obtained an Act of Parliament to build a bridge to cross Runcorn Gap. A time limit of 7 years was imposed. Shortly after obtaining the Act the Company amalgamated with others to form the London and North Western Railway. Other projects took precedence, the 7 years time limit passed, and so the powers to build the bridge lapsed.

In 1861 Parliamentary approval for a bridge was again obtained as part of building a line from Aston, to the south-east of Runcorn where it joined the line from Crewe to Warrington at Weaver Junction, to the west of Widnes, where it joined the line from Warrington to Garston at Ditton Junction. Work commenced in 1863 and the first stone was laid in 1864. The bridge was completed by 1868 and on May 21st there was an introductory opening when the contractor's locomotive 'Cheshire' drew 20 wagons over the bridge.Starkey, H. F. "Old Runcorn", Halton Borough Council, 1990, p. 170.] It was formally opened for traffic on 10th October. The first goods traffic crossed it on February 1 1869 and the first passenger train crossed on April 1st of that year.

The bridge consists of three wrought iron spans of convert|305|ft|m|0, each on two sandstone abutments with foundations at a depth of about convert|45|ft|m|0 below water level. It carries a double line of tracks, with a footpath for pedestrians on its eastern side. It has a clearance of convert|75|ft|m|0 above the high water mark to allow sailing ships to pass beneath it. There are 6 lattice girders, two to each span. Each girder contains 700 tons of iron and is fastened by 48,115 rivets. From the north side of the river the bridge is approached by a viaduct of 49 arches, then a short piece of embankment, followed by 16 more arches. From the south it is approached by a viaduct of 33 arches. On its completion, the bridge was the longest of its time. [cite web | title= West Bank Promenade Conservation Area | publisher= Halton Borough Council | url= | format= PDF | accessdate= 2007-08-19]

The bridge is named after Aethelfleda because the southern abutments and pier were built on the site of the Saxon castle erected by her in 915. Parts of the bridge are castellated to reflect this. There are three shields above the footway showing, from the southern end, the Coat of Arms of the City of London, Britannia (from the crest of the railway company) and the Liver Bird of Liverpool. Because of the crest the bridge is also known as the Britannia Railway Bridge.

In the 1890s the Manchester Ship Canal was built, passing under the bridge. The footway was closed in 1965. The bridge is still in use today for rail traffic on the Liverpool branch of the West Coast Main Line.


ee also

*Listed buildings in Runcorn, Cheshire

Further reading

*"The Bridging of Runcorn Gap", Halton Borough Council, 1978
*Cowan, C. A. "Crossing the Runcorn Gap, Vol. 1: Runcorn Ferry and Hale Ford", Halton Borough Council, 1990.
*Cowan, C. A. "Crossing the Runcorn Gap, Vol. 2: Early Bridging Proposals", Halton Borough Council, 1992.
*Thompson, Dave. "Bridging the Mersey: A Pictorial History", European Library, Zaltbommel, 2000.

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