RIBA South West and the Royal Society of Architects in Wales (RSAW) are working in partnership with the Institution of Civil Engineers in the South West and Wales to coordinate a competition and exhibition highlighting the potential of a third crossing of the Bristol Channel.
The first Severn Bridge arose out of the need to bridge the gap between England and Wales. The second Severn Bridge was built because of the sheer weight of traffic travelling across the original bridge. Now that traffic is currently growing at an average rate of 3% per year, perhaps the time is right to consider a third crossing.
The ICE and the RIBA for Wales and the South West are inviting architects, engineers and students of either discipline to submit speculative concepts for a third crossing of the Severn Estuary/ Bristol Channel, within the project ‘Linking the Lands’. There will be no commitment to build the scheme. To encourage architects and engineers to develop working relationships with each other, we welcome teams or partnerships of mixed disciplines to enter, as well as entries from individuals. However, teams should be of no more than 4 members, including both architects and engineers.
Crossing the Severn Estuary was, of course, one of the quickest ways to enter and leave Wales, but from ancient times, the only access across the river was the ferry service which crossed from Aust Cliff to Beachley Peninsula, 8 miles upstream from Avonmouth.
The ferry was replaced in 1966 by the first Severn Bridge (which has two spans: the main span across the Severn Estuary, and the second smaller span across the River Wye). This bridge provided a direct link into Wales from England via the M4 motorway. However, the bridge was closed in adverse weather conditions, and an increase in traffic flow led to severe congestion in summer and at peak times. This led to the building of the second bridge, at English Stones (5km downstream from the existing bridge), which was opened in 1996. The M4 motorway was re-aligned to the second bridge, whilst the first bridge became part of the M48.
The rail link to Wales was built by the Great Western Railway between 1873-86, after several proposals for a railway bridge to span the gap, were unsuccessful.