Tees Transporter Bridge
The Tees Transporter Bridge, often referred to as the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge, is the furthest downstream bridge across the River Tees, England. It connects Middlesbrough, on the south bank, to Port Clarence, on the north bank. It is a transporter bridge, carrying a travelling 'car', or 'gondola', suspended from the bridge, across the river in 90 seconds. The gondola can carry 200 people, 9 cars, or 6 cars and one minibus. It carries the A178 Middlesbrough to Hartlepool road. Locally, the bridge is often referred to simply as 'the Transporter'.
The idea of a transporter bridge across the River Tees was first mooted in 1872 when Charles Smith, Manager of the Hartlepool Iron Works, submitted a scheme to Middlesbrough Corporation. However, the scheme was not pursued, and it would not be until the new century that the idea of a transporter bridge across the river would again be revisited. Following a 1907 Act of Parliament the Bridge was built at a cost of £68,026 6s 8d (equivalent to £7,250,000 in 2019 values), by Sir William Arrol & Co. of Glasgow between 1910 and 1911 to replace the 'Hugh Bell' and 'Erimus' steam ferry services. A transporter bridge was chosen because Parliament ruled that the new scheme of crossing the river had to avoid affecting the river navigation. Construction work started in July 1909 with caissons being used to allow workers to dig down to bedrock. This turned out to be 65 feet (20 m) below the high tide mark on the Middlesbrough side and 90 feet (27 m) on the other. The shafts that had been dug out by this process were then filled with concrete. The formal laying of the foundation stones, made of Aberdeen granite, took place in August 1910 when they were laid by Mayor of Middlesbrough Thomas Gibson-Poole and Alderman Joseph McLauchlan, the initiator of the transporter bridge scheme.
The opening ceremony on 17 October 1911 was performed by Prince Arthur of Connaught. At its opening the bridge was painted red.
During the First World War Middlesbrough was bombed by an L11 Zeppelin in April 1916. During this raid it was reported that bomb fell through the structure before hitting the river below. During the Second World War the superstructure of the bridge was hit by a bomb. In 1953, the gondola got stuck half-way. While it was stuck, gale force winds lashed water to within inches of it. However, despite this the gondola and the Transporter Bridge have continued to run.
In 1961 the bridge was painted blue.
In 1974, the comedy actor Terry Scott, travelling between his hotel in Middlesbrough and a performance at the Billingham Forum, mistook the bridge for a regular toll crossing and drove his Jaguar off the end of the roadway, landing in the safety netting beneath.
In December 1993, the bridge was awarded the Institution of Mechanical Engineers' highest honour, The Heritage Plaque, for engineering excellence, in recognition of the Council's efforts in keeping the bridge in good working order. Its historical importance was also recognised in 1985 by its listing as a Grade II* Listed Building and its prominence as a local landmark was further enhanced in 1993 by the installation of floodlights that operate during the winter months.
It has been featured in films and TV programmes including Boys from the Blackstuff, Billy Elliot, The Fast Show, Spender, and Steel River Blues. In the millennium celebrations of 2000, fireworks were fired from its length. The storyline of the third series of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, saw the bridge dismantled to be sold to and re-erected in the USA. The local council received calls from people worried that the bridge was really being pulled down, with the BBC adding a disclaimer on the end of the final episode of the series stating that 'The Transporter Bridge is still in Middlesbrough'.
In July 2000 a visitor centre was opened on land previously occupied by the bridge workshop In August 2019, the bridge was temporarily closed for engineering works. As of February 2021,[update] the bridge was expected to remain closed until March 2021 at the earliest.
Facts and figures
The Tees Transporter Bridge has an overall length (including cantilevers) of 851 feet (259 m), leaving a span between the centres of the towers of 590 feet (180 m), the beam of the bridge being carried at a height of 160 feet (49 m) above the road. The bridge is the longest remaining transporter bridge in the world.
The bridge is currently owned by Middlesbrough Council and Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council. Middlesbrough Council has control of the day-to-day operations and maintenance. In 2011 the Tees Transporter Bridge received a £2.6 million Heritage Lottery Fund award for improvement and renovation work to mark the Bridge's centenary. The improvement works include the installation of a glass viewing lift to the landmark's upper walkway and renovation of the gondola. The bridge was closed on 27 August 2013 for 40 days repainting. It was then discovered that repairs were needed. The bridge was re-opened for traffic on 6 April 2015, but improvement work continued with the bridge still in daily use. These were completed in September 2015 after more than £4 million had been spent on the structure.
The bridge is a Grade II* Listed Building, and other elements, such as its Winch House, piers, railings, and gates, are Grade II listed.
On 5 March 2015, the Royal Mail issued a set of 10 First Class postage stamps featuring iconic British bridges including the Tees Transporter Bridge.
Vintage bus running day
The bridge is also host to an annual vintage bus running day, organised by The 500 Group. On this one day per year, usually a Sunday in April, vintage buses take people on free rides around Teesside. As part of the 2006 and 2007 events, the bridge made a special trip carrying a former Teesside Municipal Transport Daimler Fleetline, the first time a double-decker bus had used the bridge in 30 years.
Tees Transporter Bridge Anniversary Award
In 2013, the Tees Transporter Bridge Anniversary Award was inaugurated as part of the Transporter Bridge's Heritage Lottery Fund-supported Visitor Experience Project in partnership with the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT) and Teesside University. The inaugural award winner was Stephen Brown in autumn 2013, with Jason Dunnett receiving the accolade in autumn 2014.
- Newport Transporter Bridge – a similar bridge in South East Wales
- Warrington Transporter Bridge - a similar bridge in North West England (disused, designed to carry railway wagons)
- Tees Newport Bridge – a large vertical lift bridge upstream of Middlesbrough.
- Anon. (1911) "The transporter bridge over the River Tees", The Engineer, 112 (September)
- Fernández Troyano, Leonardo (2003) Bridge engineering : a global perspective [Tierra sobre el agua], London : Thomas Telford,ISBN 0-7277-3215-3
- Prade, Marcel (1988) Ponts et viaducs au XIXe siècle, Poitiers (France) : Brissaud,ISBN 2-902170-59-9
- Prade, Marcel (1990) Les grands ponts du monde: Ponts remarquables d'Europe, Poitiers (France) : Brissaud,ISBN 2-902170-65-3
- Woodhouse, Robert (2009) Tees Valley Curiosities, Stroud, Gloucestershire : The History Press,ISBN 978-0-7509-5077-0