Of the eight working transporter bridges, three are in the UK

Like many of us I’ve a fondness for oddities. Our country is packed with them. I’ll nor attempt to provide a list, as I’m sure you’ll be able to recall some that, in your experience, have surprised, and amused.

One of these oddities is Transporter bridges which were popular at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. Of the sixteeen built between 1893 and 1916, only eight remain, and of this eight three are in the UK. This type of bridge was built to cross rivers where the approach roads were low level, and would therefore be impractical to to construct a fixed bridge, and high enough to allow shipping to pass beneath. They are also cheaper to construct than fixed bridges.

Last year we used the Bizkaia Transporter Bridge, not too far north of Bilbao in northern Spain. The bridge provides a crossing of the River Nervión between Portugalete and Las Arenas, part of Getxo. It’s a world heritage site, being the world’s first transporter bridge.

Over the coming days, I’ll write about each one. I’m intending to visit the bridges in the UK, which should be fun.

Here’s the list of the eight working transporter bridges, with the UK ones listed first.

Crossing the Bilbao estuary on the world’s oldest Transporter Bridge

A smattering of stories about our recent holiday to Bilbao is what I promised. Here’s the first, about an unusual bridge.

Bilbao sits astride the tidal Nervion River, whose outlet is into the Bay of Biscay. Not far to the north of Bilbao, near the mouth of the river, is the world’s oldest transporter bridge connecting the two towns, Portugalete [left side bank] and Getxo [right side bank].

The bridge has a number of names, Bizkaia Bridge in Basque language, Vizcaya Bridge in Spanish, and commonly known locally as Puente Colgante [“Hanging Bridge”].

Built between 1890 and 1893 by Alberto de Palacio in cooperation with Ferdinand Arnodin. Palacio was a disciple of Gustave Eiffel. During the Spanish civil war the bridge suffered, with the crossbeam being destroyed. It was rebuilt in 1941. In 1998 a modernised gondola was inaugurated, and in 1999 a walkway across the crossbeam.

On 13th July 2006 the bridge was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. We crossed the river on the bridge – price remarkably cheap, just 40 cents. On the Portugalete side are images of other transporter bridges, including three in the UK. Here are our photos of the bridge.