Pont y Werin bridge, Wales

To be truly valued, bridges do not have to be vast superstructures where cars thunder across huge estuaries and simply give people the ability to get from A to B quicker than was possible before. They can be smaller scale bridges that provide vital links for people and help to further wellbeing, access to the countryside, communal facilities or open spaces.  

One such bridge is Pont y Werin in Wales.  

Where is Pont y Werin?

Pont y Werin (‘People’s Bridge’) is a pedestrian and cyclist bridge over the River Ely in Cardiff. The bridge is important because it gives walkers, cyclists, joggers and disabled people access to cross between the Cardiff International Sports Village, with its numerous sports facilities, and the picturesque seaside town of Penarth. It completes the 6.5-mile Cardiff Bay circular walk.  

The bridge cost £4.5 million and was funded jointly by the Welsh Assembly government, Cardiff Council, Cardiff Harbour Authority, Vale of Glamorgan council and the cycling charity Sustrans.  

Designing the bridge

Pont y Werin is a bascule bridge, and was designed by Cass Hayward LLP, consulting engineers specialising in designing and building road, rail and river bridges.  

The bridge is 125 metres long and is a steel box girder construction. Consisting of four spans, the bridge is supported on reinforced concrete piers that were constructed using precast concrete shell elements, designed to withstand the effects of barges colliding with the bridge. The piers did not require any temporary works.  

The bridge features a single lifting leaf, providing a 20-metre-wide opening for river transport to pass through.  

When did construction start? 

Building work on Pont y Werin began in the summer of 2009.  

Challenges faced during construction

There were no major problems encountered during the construction of Pont y Werin. There was a delay of around a month before the bridge was opened, but this was caused by problems with the supply of materials from Germany.  

The trickiest part of the construction was the lowering into place of the four spans or sections, each weighing between 38 and 46 tonnes. This was achieved with Britain’s largest crane, weighing 1,200 tonnes, over seven days in March 2010.  

When was Pont y Werin opened?

Pont y Werin was opened in July 2010 by the Deputy First Minister of Wales, Leuan Wyn Jones. On either side of the ‘People’s Bridge’ is a portrait bench featuring life-sized sculptures of people chosen to be represented by the local community. They include multi-Paralympic gold medallist and disabled rights campaigner Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson and Olympic cyclist and gold medallist Nicole Cooke. 

Take our bridge-building challenge! 

Find out more about the challenges of constructing bridges. We have some activities for 11-16 year olds to get you thinking like a bridge engineer.  

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