View From A Bridge

Posted on 31st August 2010

When is a bridge not a bridge? Apparently when it's a viaduct. Though having said that, it seems some are more insignificant than others.

About 20 years ago, I was told a fact that didn't seem that far fetched, and every so often I've tried to verify whether it was true. This weekend I found a page on the web that seemed to give a definite answer, except every other web page relating to the question seems to completely ignore this particular structure.

The fact I was told was that at the time the longest bridge in the UK was the M6 over Birmingham. Now having driven over that particular section on several occasions, I was intrigued to find out how long it was. My amateur attempts of measuring the rough distance from Junction 5 (Castle Bromich) to just past Spaghetti Junction (Gravelly Hill), aka Junction 6, found the distance to be just under 4 miles. However, as I was on top of the bridge deck I wasn't able to tell exactly where the bridge begins and ends. Until now I've never seen a reference to the exact distance.

This weekend I came across a page on the Motorway Archive, which states "The section between Gravelly Hill and Castle Bromwich is 3½ miles, which was then the longest continuous viaduct in Great Britain". Okay so it's not classed as a bridge, but a viaduct, although at 3.5 miles it does re-enforce the belief that it was the longest when I was told the fact.

So what is the longest bridge/viaduct in the UK? According to the Wikipedia page for the longest bridges, the longest in the UK is The Second Severn Crossing. However, that is only recorded as 3.2 miles long, and the M6 viaduct over Birmingham isn't mentioned. On answers.com someone else also asked the same question. The answer there states the Humber Estuary Bridge has the longest single span in the UK, but again The Second Severn Crossing is the longest in distance. On Flickr someone else wanted to know the longest viaduct in the UK, and again the M6 viaduct doesn't get a mention, as they only mention rail bridges.

Aside from the links above, I can't find anything that relates specifically to UK bridges, and many of the pages listing longest bridges in the world rarely list more than a small selection. So what is the longest bridge in the UK? I still think it's the M6 over Birmingham, but may be the reason it doesn't get mentioned is that it doesn't appear to have an official name. I'd suggest the Spaghetti Viaduct, seeing as it's one of the strands as part of Spaghetti Junction. If anyone has a definite answer, I'd be delighted to know.

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