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The Millennium Bridge at Lancaster

Back in 2001, a new bridge was opened over the River Lune at Lancaster. Now, at long last, pedestrians and cyclists (especially cyclists) are able to cross the River Lune without dicing with death on the one-way 20,000-vehicles-per-day Greyhound and Skerton Bridges, or staggering up (and down) the long flight of steps to the walkway alongside Carlisle Bridge.

The Millennium Bridge is the centrepiece of the Lune Millennium Park, an environmental upgrade project to enhance the riverside area along the Lune from Bull Beck (above Caton) down to Salt Ayre, with the emphasis on providing sustainable transport links. Of particular benefit is the opportunity of linking the long-established traffic-free cycleway to Morecambe with comparable paths on the south bank to Caton and Glasson Dock all founded on disused railways.

The bridge, designed by Whitby Bird, the innovative bridge architects, is of striking concept and construction. The bridge is of cable-stayed construction, as are most major new bridges nowadays; unique features include the curved deck which sweeps round to join the old viaduct at the southern end, the gangway which gives access from the quayside and the twin masts which support the structure.

The construction of the bridge  caused a few headaches along the way, unfortunately somewhat exacerbated by the advanced, not to say revolutionary, design. Construction commenced in November 1999 and for a long while assurances were given that the bridge would be completed in time for the Millennium Festival of Cycling in June, 2000. This slipped to Cyclefest in August, but after that postponement piled on postponement. One reason for the delay was the unexpectedly high river levels in the previous winter. Although the bridge designers are no doubt satisfied as to the structural integrity of the finished bridge, there was perhaps insufficient thought given as to how Henry Boot the hapless contractors, were supposed to actually build the thing. Serious technical problems were encountered when the contractors came to lift the masts into position and the 1,000-tonne crane which had been hired for heavy lifting for five days had to stay for five weeks. There have also been contractual problems and the final straw came when the firm sub-contracted to fabricate and install the balustrades went into receivership.

But our patience was at last rewarded. The official opening ceremony was to have been performed by Lancaster's most famous cycling personality, Jason Queally (not by his grandson as earlier cruel rumour had it!). Unfortunately, only one day previously, Jason was involved in a crash on his bike whilst training in Florida, and was unable to fly home. His place was taken at the last minute by Tom Queally, his father. The day dawned bright and clear, and a crowd of about 2,000 turned out for the occasion amply demonstrating the popularity of the new addition to Lancaster's skyline. Young Louise Gibbons was awarded the honour of being the first cyclist over the new bridge as the winning entrant in a road safety competition.

The bridge is a vital component in the National Cycle Network, a nation-wide project supported by the Millennium Commission and promoted by Sustrans, to establish a connected system of traffic-free and lightly-trafficked routes throughout the country. The Lune Millennium Bridge forms part of National Cycle Network route 6 which runs north from Preston to Morecambe and thence northwards to Carnforth and Kendal. A special milepost, one of many donated by the Royal Bank of Scotland to the project, stands at the northern end of the bridge.

The bridge has not been without its critics, and a vigorous campaign to stifle the project at birth was conducted by residents of the smart riverside flats on the Quay, headed by the artist Geoff Woodhead, adducing a number of practical and aesthetic objections. The popularity of the bridge now that it is open show that the project is very far from being the white elephant that its detractors claimed it would be. Although the aesthetic argument still rages, many people in Lancaster are highly enthusiastic about its stunning elevation. It is an unfortunate fact of life that anything innovative always seems to attract a lot of criticism.

What is more, the City Council (under the control of the Morecambe Bay Independents at the time) was very luke-warm about the project, presumably because it was inherited from the previous Labour-controlled Council. How different from the Gateshead Millennium Bridge which has become the focal point for the redevelopment of the waterside areas of Gateshead and Newcastle, and an icon for the whole of North-East England.

 The new bridge had a dramatic effect on transport in the district. A survey conducted by Sustrans showed that over 500 people use the bridge during the morning peak period (nearly half of all the cyclists and pedestrians who cross the river in the morning). The survey also showed a 16% increase in the total number of cyclists and pedestrians crossing the river at that time. The City's own survey shows 3000 people using the bridge over a full ten-hour period. 

Bridge facts and figures

Total length along the curved deck 114 m
Width of the main deck 4 m
Length of the gangway 30.5 m
Length of the masts approx. 40 m
Diameter of the masts (mid point) 1200 mm
Diameter of the masts (ends) 800 mm
Diameter of each bearing surface (of two) 350 mm
Weight of largest (curved) deck section 52 t

Click on the thumbnail to access the sub-gallery
Groundworks The deck The masts Final touches
The opening People Images And afterwards

Created with Easy Website Photo Gallery

View Lancaster Millennium Bridge in a larger map

Links and acknowledgements

For comments and suggestions, and to report any errors, please contact me, Oliver Dixon.

Other Millennium bridges

Inspired by the bridge at Lancaster, I have now embarked on a much wider project to record many more of the bridges which have been constructed up and down the country to commemorate the Millennium, although it will take quite a while to get round to them all. More recently, the scope of this website has been expanded to include several non-Millennium bridges and other remarkable structures and some  overseas entries

Site history

2002 Site development now with Microsoft Frontpage 2000

2002 Added Whittlesey (Shanks bridge), Coleraine, York, River Lyne (Westlinton to Sandysike, near Carlisle), Durham (Pennyferry bridge), Dumfries (Loreburn bridge), Enniskillen (Derrychara bridge), Cyclefest August 2002 on the Lune bridge, London, Bushmills, Hythe (Royal Military Canal).

4/1/03 More photos of Gateshead added.

Map index to all bridges included.

27/2/03 Annan added

24/4/03 Sedgefield (County Durham Gateway) added

16/9/03 Exeter (Miller's Crossing) added

17/9/03 Willowford (River Irthing) added

22/10/03 Overseas section, including Puente de la Mujer, Buenos Aires, added

6/11/03 Penistone (Trans-Pennine Trail) added

14/11/03 Millennium Ribble Link (Preston) added

1/12/03 New photos of Gateshead bridge, including gallery of  bridge opening

19/12/03 Pero's Bridge, Bristol added

28/8/04 Dailly (Ayrshire) added

2/11/04 Keswick Boardwalk added

3/11/04 Il Grande Bigo, Genoa, added

24/01/05 Kirkby Stephen added

25/01/05 Glasgow Millennium Bridge added

26/01/05 Bellsbridge (Glasgow) added

30/01/05 Irish Gate (Carlisle) added

31/01/05 Frank Kitts Park Bridge, Wellington, New Zealand added

5/2/05 Teesquay Millennium Bridge, Stockton-on-Tees added. (Grouped with County Durham Gateway Bridge, Sedgefield)

6/2/05 Ayr Millennium Bridge added (Grouped with Dailly bridge)

8/2/05 Schiehallion Millennium Path added

10/2/05 Extra Gateshead photos added

14/2/05 Other bridges in Dumfries added

19/2/05 Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge added

25/6/05 Minor corrections to Schiehallion Millennium Path

16/12/05 Bridges from Canada added - Delta Millennium Bridge, Barclay Crescent Millennium Bridge (Parksville), Capilano Suspension Bridge (North Vancouver), two trestle bridges on the Kettle Valley Railway, Bow River Bridge (Prince's Island Park, Calgary). Also Wintringham Millennium Pond, near Malton, Yorks.

22/03/06 Bridges from Australia added - Webb Bridge, "Rainbow" Bridge and Fairfield Pipe Bridge in Melbourne; and the Cataract Gorge bridges in Launceston

26/6/06 Holburn Street Bridge in Aberdeen, Sail Bridge in Swansea, Pont King Morgan in Carmarthen and Machynlleth Millennium Bridge added

12/01/07 Extra photographs of Puente de la Mujer, Buenos Aires added

31/05/07 Newcastle (County Down) added

8/02/08 Salford bridges added. Picture galleries now assembled with "Web Album Generator"

13/11/09 Callander (Glenogle and Glen Kendrum viaducts) and four bridges in Dublin added.

16/11/09 Three additions to the New Zealand collection - Wanaka Millennium Walkway, Kawarau Bridge (Queenstown) and Clifden Suspension Bridge.

15/01/10 Started to add Google maps to each entry.

20/01/10 Google maps now accessible from all main pages. Queen of the South Viaduct and Kirkpatrick MacMillan Bridge in Dumfries added. Invershin Viaduct Footbridge (near Lairg) added.

21/1/10 Lewisburn Bridge, Kielder Forest added (see under Hexham and Haltwhistle).

4/10/10 Dunajec River Bridge and Bernatka Bridge (Krakow), both in Poland, added. Picture galleries now assembled with AlbumWeb by Photoactions.

12/11/10 "Reconnections", Belmullet, Irish Republic added.

5/5/12 Infinity Bridge, Stockton-on-Tees added.

22/1/13 Celtic Gateway, Holyhead added

27/1/13 Bilbao bridges added

17/12/13 Peace Bridge, Derry/Londonderry added

9/4/14 Golden Jubilee Bridges, London added

25/3/15 Now hosted by Hostpapa. Some web development transferred to Microsoft Expression Web 4

16/4/15 Scunthorpe Ridgeway bridges added. Gallery development now by Easy Website Photo Gallery  by Web Gallery Software

17/4/15 Tweed Bridge, Cardrona and Ellišaįr bridges, Reykjavik added

27/7/15 Started to convert all photo galleries on the website to Easy Website Photo Gallery. This will take a long time!

8/1/16 Bridges at Mizen Head, County Cork added

11/1/16 Itchen Riverside Boardwalk, Southampton added

11/1/16 Map index converted to Google Maps

20/2/16 Overhaul of site complete. All photo galleries displayed by Easy Website Photo Gallery

Number of visitors since overhaul of site 20th February, 2016

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