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Severn Bridge

The Severn Bridge seen from the English side of the river. Until 1996, the bridge carried the M4 motorway. On completion of the Second Severn Crossing the road was renamed M48.
The Severn Bridge is nowadays generally regarded (at least by people in the south of England) as the main crossing point from England into Wales, despite the fact that the two countries share a land border. Prior to 1966, when the first suspension bridge was built across the estuary of the River Severn, road traffic between Wales and the southern counties of England - including London - either had to travel via Gloucester or take a ferry, which ran, roughly along the line of the Severn Bridge, from Aust to Beachley. The Anglo-Welsh poet, Harri Webb, wrote these lines:

Two lands at last connected
Across the waters wide,
And all the tolls collected
On the English side.

...a joke which was often repeated. The toll is indeed collected on the English side, and only on vehicles travelling from England to Wales. This arrangement eliminates the need for a set of toll booths for each direction of travel.

The Severn Bridge is really two bridges in succession: travelling west a vehicle passes over the main Severn Bridge but then almost immediately over a second, cable-stayed bridge, of very different appearance, crossing the River Wye. Surprisingly, Welsh soil does not begin until after this second bridge has been crossed - both ends of the Severn Bridge itself are in England, one in the Unitary Authority of South Gloucestershire, the other in Gloucestershire.

Although the bridge made an enormous difference, it was soon a major bottleneck, and the burden of maintenance became unmanageable, so that by the 1990s a second bridge was necessary.

''The Second Severn Crossing, seen here from the English side of the river, carries the M4 motorway between England and Wales. The shipping channel can be seen in the middle of the river, between the two towers.

The Second Severn Crossing, opened in 1996, was built by a business consortium, and this time the tolls were collected on the Welsh side (but in the same direction). The second bridge, which is of cable-stayed construction and hence, despite the apparent similarity, is not a suspension bridge, is wider and more resistant to high winds, and, because of its location, enjoys more traffic than the first bridge, which is still in general use. Its Welsh end is in Monmouthshire; its English end, in South Gloucestershire.

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