The Tamar Bridge is a major road bridge at Saltash in southwest England carrying traffic between Cornwall and Devon over the River Tamar. When it opened in 1961 it was the longest suspension bridge in the United Kingdom. In 2001 it became the world's first suspension bridge to be widened (from three to five lanes) using cantilevers, and the world's first bridge to undergo strengthening and widening work while remaining open to traffic. The five lanes are divided as follows: three lanes carry the A38 trunk road, the fourth is reserved for eastbound local traffic and the fifth for pedestrians and cyclists. Previously all traffic merged and shared the three lanes.
Construction of the Tamar Bridge began in July 1959. Before this, the lowest road crossing of the River Tamar was Gunnislake New Bridge at the village of Gunnislake. This seven-arched granite bridge was built in the early 16th century (c. 1520). It is still in use today but it is only wide enough to carry one lane of traffic. Before the Tamar Bridge was opened, most car drivers wishing to travel between Saltash (on the Cornish side) and the Devon city of Plymouth used car ferries. Today the Tamar Bridge carries approximately 40,000 vehicles every day. It is co-owned by Plymouth City Council and Cornwall Council, and is managed by the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry Joint Committee. A toll of GBP1.50 per car is charged when driving from Cornwall into Devon, although the price is halved using the electronic payment system. Motorcycles do not have to pay.
The Tamar Bridge is located above the Hamoaze, and runs parallel to Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Royal Albert Bridge (sometimes referred to as the Brunel Bridge) which opened in 1859 and is considered to be one of his greatest railway achievements. Both bridges offer wonderful views of the Tamar Valley and Tamar Estuary. The Tamar, Lynher and Tavy Valleys form one of England's thirty-seven Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The Tamar Bridge was the first major suspension bridge to be constructed in the UK after the Second World War. It was also the longest suspension bridge in the UK at that time. Its central span measures 335 m (1100 ft). The bridge was constructed by Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company, and building work began in July 1959. It had a concrete deck, and was capable of carrying lorries up to 38 tonnes. The construction cost over GBP1.5 million, and the bridge opened to traffic in October 1961. H.M. Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother officially opened the bridge on 26 April 1962.