Britannia Bridge, Crossing the Anglesey Coastal Path

When you come to Anglesey you will most likely cross the Britannia Bridge. If you come to the island by train, say from London Euston, then this is the only railway crossing.

There again if you drive here, your choice of getting onto Anglesey is again, either the Britannia Bridge or Telford's Menai Suspension Bridge, just over a mile estwards down the Menai Straits.

The bridge also crosses the Anglesey Coastal Path and this coastal footpath is a good way to enjoy the views along the Menai Straits, including these two historic structures, great examples of 19th century British civil engineering at its best.

It was always likely that with the increasing popularity of rail travel in the 19th century, the railway network would expand westward to Anglesey.

And so it was, building on the earlier success of Thomas Telford's Menai Suspension Bridge, opened in 1826, George Stephenson looked at a new, bold project to build a railway onto this island off North Wales.

With increasing traffic and trade with Ireland, it was clear that a rail link to the port of Holyhead would connect with the ferry to Dublin. You can see the Britannia Bridge crossing on the map here.

Today visitors travelling on a train to Anglesey will cross onto the island over the Britannia Bridge.

It was Stephenson's son, Robert, who actually took on this great challenge. The original bridge was tubular, consisting of two 140 m long rectangular tubes, each weighing about 1,500 tonnes.

Against received engineering wisdom of the day, Stephenson did not incorporate chains as added support for the tubular bridge, and history shows that his vision and courage were well founded.

Disaster struck in May 1970 when young lads set the bridge on fire. I barely remember the incident as a young toddler, being stranded at London Euston trying to get the London Holyhead train, after returning from a holiday abroad the day after the fire.

The bridge as you see it here in the video clip was the result of the reconstruction following the fire. The split level sees the A55 trunk road along the top, with the existing railway line running on the lower tier as before.

With a growth in traffic onto the island over recent years due to the success of the Holyhead Dublin ferry link, there have been calls for a third lane or even a separate third crossing.

Whatever happens we always remember the four carved stone lions, two at each end that guarded the tunnel entrance to the Britannia Bridge.

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