17 October 2011
England's only operating transporter bridge celebrates its centenary today with a day-long series of events including a birthday party.
The Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge is one of only three remaining such bridges in the UK - the others being in Warrington and Newport.
This week's celebrations are part of a seven-month programme of events to raise awareness of the bridge and the area’s heritage.
The Heritage Lottery Fund has backed the celebrations with a US$4.1m grant that covers refurbishment and upgrade work to the structure. This includes the installation of glass viewing lifts, giving visitors views across the Tees Valley; improvements to the walkway across the top to increase public access; motor replacement to improve reliability; and restoration work to the gondola.
Middlesbrough Council's research found that there have been some 20 transporter bridges constructed around the world of which only 11 still exist and a lesser number again are still in regular use. The first bridge, near Bilbao, Spain, opened in 1893. All the bridges were constructed in the 23 years between 1893 and 1916 and of the nine demolished structures an average life of 36 years was achieved.
The Middlesbrough Transporter is a total of 259.3m in length, which makes it the longest of those remaining in the world. Its cantilever construction has three main bridge spans. The bridge is, effectively, two almost independent structures joined at the centre of the River Tees. Each half of the bridge has an 'anchor' span of 42.6m and then cantilevers across the river 86.8m from the tower leg to meet its twin from the opposite bank.
The passenger gondola is suspended by steel cables and runs on a wheel and rail system approximately 48.7m above the River Tees. Whilst Middlesbrough's Transporter is the largest operational transporter bridge, the largest bridge ever of this type is recorded as 304.7m in length, built over the River Mersey near Widnes. That bridge closed in 1961 and has been demolished.
The Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge is fully operational and provides a regular quarter-hourly service between Middlesbrough and Port Clarence for 18 hours a day. This service is interrupted from time to time for routine maintenance works, with some lengthier closures for major refurbishment. Crossing the river takes just two minutes.