The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History
TAMAR ROAD BRIDGE
A bridge across the river Tamar in the area of Plymouth was first mooted by some local businessmen as long ago as 1823. There were even proposals for a tunnel underneath the river. Having dismissed both ideas as costly and impractical at the time, it was forgotten until 1924 when the increasing amount of traffic being carried by the old Saltash Ferry led to agitation for the replacement of both the Torpoint and Saltash Ferries by a road bridge. Although plans were apparently drawn up no further action was taken.
That was until 1950, when, on Wednesday December 13th, Cornwall County Council convened a conference in Plymouth of the local authorities and other interested bodies, like the Chamber of Commerce. A joint committee was formed by representatives of Plymouth City Council and Cornwall County Council and the Minister of Transport was urged to arrange for a detailed survey to be carried out before the undertaking could proceed.
Unfortunately, the Government did not like the idea at the time and thought it was uneconomic in the post-war era when so much of Britain had to be rebuilt after the devastation caused by bombing. Despite sending many deputations to see successive Minsters of Transport, no funding was forthcoming. And so the two sponsoring councils decided to go it alone and pay for the project themselves.
Invitations to tender were published on March 4th and 5th 1959, with a closing date of June 9th. Ten days later it was announced that the lowest tender had been accepted, that from the Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company. No time was lost and the contractors were on site on Sunday July 5th 1959, with work in the area of the river starting on Tuesday July 7th 1959.
Just for once the Admiralty were helpful and quickly gave up land on the Plymouth shore, while speedily agreeing to the works taking place in mid-river. There was also full co-operation from Saltash Borough Council and the traders and residents of the Town in getting buildings demolished to make way for the pier and approach road on that side of the river.
Sectional drawing of the
anchorage of the
The first section of roadway
The foundations, piers, anchorages, towers, abutments, cables, stiffening trusses and road works at each end were constructed by the Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company Ltd of Darlington, County Durham. Their tender amounted to £1,345,556. The locked coil wire ropes used for the main cables and suspenders were provided by British Ropes Ltd of Doncaster, Yorkshire. The Contractors' Agent at the site was Mr P Pilditch, BSc, AMICE, while the work was directed by Mr A Ottiwell Smith, AMIStructE, the Chief Civil Engineer at Cleveland's London office.
Opening day fell on Tuesday October 24th 1961. The first bus to cross the bridge was a Western National Omnibus Company vehicle on the route 76 to Callington shortly after 5.30am.
The Bridge was officially opened by HRH the Queen Mother on April 26th 1962 when she cut a tape on the Plymouth side and walked across the bridge to meet the Mayor of Saltash on the Cornish side of the river. Measurements given at the time of opening included the total length at 2,108 feet. The central span was 1,100 feet, the side spans 374 feet. The width of the carriageway was 33 feet.
|© Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK|
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