Humber Bridge: The history of Yorkshire’s famous suspension bridge, the second-longest in the Western Hemisphere

The Humber Bridge, in East Yorkshire, was the longest bridge in the world for 17 years until the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge was opened in Japan on April 5, 1998.

A cyclist riding past the Humber Bridge. (Pic credit: Simon Hulme)

The Humber Estuary was a popular barrier to trade for centuries and local residents campaigned for more than 100 years for a bridge or tunnel to be built over it.

Ferries sailed across the estuary although the driving route involved having to travel to Goole, which is 29 miles from Hull and 53 miles from Grimsby.

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The construction of a suspension bridge was approved in 1959 and three years later work began on building the bridge.

It took eight years and 1,000 workers to build the bridge and traffic first crossed the bridge on June 24, 1981. On July 17, 1981, Queen Elizabeth II performed the formal opening ceremony.

On the evening of October 9, the bridge will be closing completely to carry out crucial maintenance work.

Why was Humber Bridge built instead of a tunnel?

The Humber Estuary has a shifting bed and the path along which ferries and ships can travel is changing constantly. A suspension bridge is therefore vital to avoid obstruction of the estuary.

Another reason is because of the geology and topography of the area the cost of building a tunnel would have been too expensive.

The Bridge provided an opportunity for the Humber region to realise its potential in commercial and industrial development.

It has saved millions of vehicle miles and crucial hours of drivers’ and passengers’ time, particularly for tourists who would have had to travel around the estuary to get to their destinations within the Humber region.

Due to reduced vehicle emissions, the bridge has also participated heavily in improving the environment.

The Humber Bridge was given a Grade I listed status by Historic England in 2017, making it the longest listed structure in the country.

Why is the bridge closing?

Due to the devastating impact of Storm Ciara in February 2020 after the bridge was hit by 80mph winds, the structure has had to close down for repairs.

Since last year, inspections have been carried out under the road deck to find out the extent of damage caused by the storm.

This weekend has been chosen to close the bridge because the weather is expected to be sufficient for the work to be completed.

The bridge will be closed to motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians from 9pm on October 9, to 7am on October 10.

The public are advised to reschedule all non-essential travel during these hours and unfortunately for those who are making essential journeys, they will have to take the longer route around the estuary during these hours.