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The Humber Bridge is the fifth-largest single-span suspension bridge in the world, near Kingston upon Hullmarker in Englandmarker. It spans the Humbermarker (the estuary formed by the rivers Trent and Ousemarker) between Barton-upon-Humbermarker on the south bank and Hesslemarker on the north bank, connecting the East Riding of Yorkshire and North Lincolnshiremarker. The bridge carries an average of 120,000 vehicles per week,which pay a toll of £2.70 each way for cars (higher for commercial vehicles).

History

Plans for a bridge were originally drawn up in the 1930s, and were revised in 1955, but work did not begin until 26 July 1972.The Humber Bridge Act, promoted by Kingston Upon Hull Corporation, was passed in 1959. This established the Humber Bridge Board in order to manage and raise funds to build the bridge and buy the land required for the approach roads.

However raising the necessary funding proved impossible until the 1966 Hull North by-election. To save his government, Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson prevailed upon his Minister of Transport Barbara Castle to sanction the building of the bridge.

Dismay at the long wait for a crossing led to the writing by Christopher Rowe of a protest song entitled The Humber Bridge.

The bridge was finally opened officially by HM The Queen on 17 July 1981. The consulting engineers for the project were Freeman Fox & Partners — now Hyder Consulting. The main contractor was Sir William Arrol & Co. at that time part of Northern Engineering Industries plc.

With a centre span of and a total length of , the Humber Bridge was the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world for 16 years.

Bridge statistics

The bridge's surface takes the form of a dual carriageway with a lower-level foot and cyclepath on both sides, although traffic is often restricted to one lane both ways. There is a permanent speed limit on the full length of the bridge.

Each tower consists of a pair of hollow vertical concrete columns, each tall and tapering from square at the base to x at the top. The bridge is designed to tolerate constant motion and bends more than in winds of . The towers, although both vertical, are not parallel, being further apart at the top than the bottom as a result of the curvature of the earth.

The north tower is on the bank, and has foundations down to . The south tower is in the water, and descends to as a consequence of the shifting sandbanks that make up the estuary.

There is enough wire in the suspension cables to circle the Earth nearly twice.

The bridge held the record for the world's longest single-span suspension bridge for 16 years from its opening in June 1981 until the opening of the Great Belt Bridgemarker in June 1997 and was relegated to third place with the opening of the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridgemarker in April 1998. It is now the fifth longest single-span suspension bridge after two longer span bridges opened in China, the Xihoumen Bridgemarker and the Runyang Bridgemarker. It remains the longest bridge in the world that one can cross on foot. The bridge twice forms part of the route of the popular Humber Bridge Half Marathon.

The road-distance between Hullmarker and Grimsbymarker was reduced by nearly as a consequence of the bridge. Prior to the bridge opening, commuters would go from one bank to the other either by using the ferry that ran between Hull and New Holland, Lincolnshiremarker or driving via the M62, M18 and M180 motorways, crossing the River Ousemarker near Goolemarker (connected to the Humber) in the process. There was also a short-lived hovercraft service; Minerva and Mercury linked Hull Pier and Grimsby Docks from 17 February 1968 to 21 October 1968, but suffered frequent mechanical failures.

Over 2,000 cars go over The Humber Bridge every day.

Incidents and suicides

More than 200 incidents of people jumping or falling from the bridge have taken place since it was opened in 1981 with only five surviving.

Between 1990 and February 2001 the Humber Rescue Team launched its boat 64 times to deal with people falling or jumping off the bridge.

Notable incidents include the cases of a West Yorkshire woman and her two-year-old daughter who fell off the bridge in 2005,a mother who killed herself and her 12-year old son with Rett's syndrome in April 2006,and that of a man jumping from the bridge to his death on the A63 road below in September 2006. As a result, plans have been considered to construct a suicide barrier or introduce higher fencing along the walkways of the bridge; trials have been held, with design constraints as well as cost cited as the reason for non-implementation so far.

Throughout the year many people commit or attempt to commit suicide on the Humber Bridge, so local NHS authorities have specialist counsellors and doctors on call. .

Finances

The disappointing annual average daily traffic for the bridge and the resultant failure of the tolls to clear the debts causes them to remain in place.

The bridge has a toll charge of £2.70 (as of 10 April 2009) for cars. The Humber Bridge is the only major toll bridge in the United Kingdommarker to charge tolls to motorcycles (£1.20): others such as the Severn crossings and the Dartford Crossingmarker are free. In 2004 a large number of motorcyclists held a slow-pay protest, taking off gloves and helmets and paying the toll in large denomination bank notes.Police reported a tailback of as a consequence of the protest. Despite receiving several letters in support of the removal of tolls, they remain in place for motorcycles.

In 1996, the British Parliament passed the Humber Bridge Act 1996 to reorganise the Humber Bridge Board's debts in order to ensure the Bridge could be safely maintained. Although a significant proportion of the debt was suspended in that refinancing arrangement there was no "write off" of debt and the suspended portion is being gradually re-activated as the Bridge Board pays off the remainder of the active debt.

In 2006 a Private Member's Bill — sponsored by Cleethorpes Labour MP Shona McIsaac — relating to the Humber Bridge, was introduced into Parliament.The Humber Bridge Bill would have made amendments to the Humber Bridge Act 1959 "requiring the secretary of state to give directions to members of the Humber Bridge Board regarding healthcare and to review the possibility of facilitating journeys across the Humber Bridge in relation to healthcare". The aim was to allow people who travel from the Southbank to the Northbank for medical treatment to cross the bridge without paying the toll, and to allow the Secretary of State for Transport to appoint two members of the Humber Bridge board to represent the interests of the NHS. Even though the Bill received cross-party support (it was co-sponsored by Shadow Home Secretary David Davis, and supported by all other MPs representing North Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire) it ran out of time later that year.

A protest at the bridge on 1 September 2007 was supported by the local Cancer Patients Involvement Group, the Road Haulage Association, Yorkshire and Humberside MEP Diana Wallis and local business and council representatives. The government responded to the petition on 14 January 2008, stating that "Concessions or exemptions from tolls on the Humber Bridge are a matter for the Humber Bridge Board."

In October 2008, a joint campaign was launched by the Scunthorpe Telegraph, Hull Daily Mail and Grimsby Telegraph to abolish the fee for crossing the Humber.The papers' A Toll Too Far campaign garnered much support from councillors and MPs serving Lincolnshire and Humberside and was launched in response to a mooted increase in the cost of bridge crossings.The campaign's aim was not only to stave off any potential increase in crossing charges, but to ultimately see the costs abolished. A reduction to a £1 charge for bridge crossings was a sought-after alternative. Thousands of readers backed the campaign with an in-paper and online petition.

A public inquiry into the tolls was held in the first week of March 2009. The final evidence for and against the tolls was heard on 5 March. Throughout the inquiry arguments were presented to independent inspector Neil Taylor. The evidence for and against the tolls is to be assessed by British Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon, with a decision expected in summer 2009.

Images of the bridge

Image:DSCF2274.jpg|View from the South BankImage:Humber_Bridge_South_Bank2.jpg|View from the South Bank showing the curvature of the bridgeImage:Humber_bridge_north_bank1.jpg|View from the North BankImage:Humber_bridge_walkway.jpg|View from the Eastern walkwayImage:HumberBridge2.jpg|View from the North BankImage:Humberbridgetowercloseup.jpg|Close up of Bridge TowerImage:Aa Humber Bridge 01.jpg|View from southwestImage:Humber Bridge00048.jpg|View from North bank East sideImage:Humber Bridge00026.jpg|View from below Humber bridge towers taken from North bankImage:Humber bridge.jpg|View from North bank West sideImage:Humber Brige Sunset Wideshot.JPG|Sunset from North bank East side

References

External links

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