The Severn Crossing - Facts and Figures

Sev­ern Bridge

The Sev­ern Bridge was opened to replace the ferry ser­vice between Aust Cliff and Beach­ley.  The bridge is 8 miles upstream from Avon­mouth and, at this point, the River Sev­ern is almost 1 mile wide at high water.

The Bridge took 3½ years to build at a cost of £8m.  The tow­ers are 445 feet high and the main span is 3,240 feet.  It car­ries two 24ft wide car­riage­ways marked as two lanes, as well as two 12ft wide pedestrian/cycle paths.   The cen­tres of sus­pen­sion cables are 75 ft apart.

The Cross­ing con­sists of four struc­tures: the Sev­ern Bridge which spans the River Sev­ern, the Wye Bridge which spans the River Wye, Beach­ley Viaduct which con­nects the Sev­ern Bridge and the Wye Bridge, and Aust Viaduct. It car­ries around 17,000 vehi­cles a day.

The Sev­ern Bridge orig­i­nally car­ried the M4, but with the open­ing of the Sec­ond Sev­ern Cross­ing in 1996, the new cross­ing became part of the M4 Motor­way and the Sev­ern Bridge became part of the M48 Motorway.

The for­mer Avon County Coun­cil, and Glouces­ter­shire County Coun­cil prior to that, main­tained and oper­ated the Sev­ern Bridge on behalf of the Sec­re­tary of State until respon­si­bil­ity passed to Sev­ern River Cross­ing plc (SRC) in April 1992.

The M48 Sev­ern Bridge is a local land mark and a Grade 1 listed struc­ture.  Unlike the Sec­ond Sev­ern Cross­ing, it has no wind shield­ing and is sub­ject to clo­sures dur­ing high winds (see High Winds Protocol).

The toll plaza is sit­u­ated at Aust on the Eng­lish side of the estuary.

Sec­ond Sev­ern Crossing

In July 1986 the Sec­re­taries of State for Trans­port and for Wales agreed to build a bridge across the Sev­ern Estu­ary.  The new bridge would be sit­u­ated approx­i­mately 3½ miles down­stream from the Sev­ern Bridge and would con­nect to the M4 on both banks, as well as to the M5 near Avonmouth.

The con­tract to design, build, finance and oper­ate the Sec­ond Sev­ern Cross­ing was awarded to SRC in April 1990.  As a result, SRC entered into an agree­ment with the Gov­ern­ment.  The Con­ces­sion Agree­ment was embod­ied into an Act of Par­lia­ment, and on 6 March 1992, the Sec­re­tary of State signed the Order set­ting the start­ing date of the Con­ces­sion as 26 April 1992.

The Con­ces­sion period is lim­ited to a max­i­mum of 30 years, although the actual end date will be achieved when SRC has col­lected a fixed sum of money from tolls.

The Sec­ond Cross­ing took 4 years to build at a cost of £330 mil­lion.  The struc­ture is approx­i­mately 3.2 miles (5,126 metres) long and con­sists of a cen­tral 0.6 mile (948 metre) cable stayed bridge sup­ported by two 137 metre high pylons.  It car­ries three lanes of traf­fic in each direc­tion and was designed to include wind shield­ing to pro­tect traffic.

The toll plaza is sit­u­ated at Rogiet on the Welsh side of the estuary.

State­ment on the exten­sion of the Sev­ern Cross­ings concession

In June 2012, the High­ways Agency signed an exten­sion to the agree­ment with the con­ces­sion­aire, Sev­ern River Cross­ings Plc (SRC).  This was needed to reflect recent tax changes and the addi­tional costs of intro­duc­ing card pay­ments at the Sev­ern tolls.  This change has increased the amount SRC can col­lect in tolls dur­ing the con­ces­sion by £33.1m, from £995.8m to £1,028.9m — all in July 1989 prices.  This is approx­i­mately a £69m increase in March 2012 prices.

The exten­sion does not have any imme­di­ate cash impli­ca­tions for Gov­ern­ment, as the costs will be recov­ered by SRC through the tolls. It will, how­ever, delay the fore­cast end of con­ces­sion by about 11 months to 2018.  The actual date is depen­dant on a num­ber of fac­tors includ­ing traf­fic lev­els but is lim­ited to a max­i­mum of 30 years as set out in the Sev­ern Bridges Act 1992.

We con­sid­ered a num­ber of options to finance the set­tle­ment, includ­ing a gov­ern­ment funded cash pay­ment, and an increase in the level of tolls.  How­ever we opted for an exten­sion to the con­ces­sion so as to min­imise the impact of the changes on the tax payer.

The £33.1m increase in the amount SRC can col­lect in tolls rep­re­sents (in July 1989 prices):

• £21.2m for the abo­li­tion of Indus­trial Build­ings Allowance (IBA)
(£24.7m for IBA, less £3.5m in respect of Cor­po­ra­tion Tax reductions)

• £9.4m for the addi­tional costs of imple­ment­ing and oper­at­ing card pay­ment sys­tems from Autumn 2010 until the end of the concession;

• £2.6m in respect of the VAT increase from 17.5% to 20%

Sev­ern Bridges Act accounts

The Sev­ern Bridges Act accounts 2012–13 were laid before Par­lia­ment and pub­lished on 20 Jan­u­ary 2014.


Fur­ther infor­ma­tion, includ­ing toll prices, main­te­nance and lane clo­sures, and  the cur­rent sta­tus of the cross­ings are avail­able on Sev­ern River Crossing’s web­site at