Newport Transporter Bridge: Multimillion-pound boost for historic structure

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media captionNewport Transporter Bridge set for major makeover

Funding has been secured to turn one of the world's last remaining transporter bridges into a major attraction.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund is giving £8.75m towards repairs and a new visitor centre at the landmark Grade I listed structure in Newport.

Visitors will again be able to ride the gondola across the Usk, or cross the walkway at a height of 180ft (55m).

The bridge opened in 1906 and has the largest span of its type left in the world, the lottery fund said.

Director Andrew White said the money - the third largest investment it had made in Wales - would "create a sense of pride in Newport's unique heritage".

City council leader Jane Mudd said: "The transporter bridge is an icon of Newport, and a significant part of the story of Wales' industrial past, one that we need to preserve for future generations so that we can tell the stories of our shared history.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe bridge allowed workers to cross the River Usk without blocking shipping
image copyrightNewport City Council
image captionA councillor said the plans were a "celebration" of the Newport Transporter Bridge

"The development of a new visitor centre has the potential to create both job and volunteering opportunities, and enhance the city's reputation as a visitor destination, both of which will bring wider economic benefits to Newport," she said.

What is a transporter bridge?

image copyrightNewport City Council
image captionThe Newport Transporter Bridge was opened in 1906
  • The first working example was built in 1893 at Portugalete near Bilbao in Spain
  • A transporter bridge is basically a suspended ferry
  • A high-level boom that allows ships to pass underneath is suspended from towers at each end
  • The gondola is suspended from the carriage and can be pulled from one side of the river to the other by means of a hauling cable
  • Source: Newport City Council
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe world's first transporter bridge still crosses the river near Bilbao

The new visitor centre will show the social history of the bridge and the tidal environment of the river Usk.

It will include a cafe, toilets, shop and an exhibition gallery.

Work on the bridge will include replacing rotten timbers on the gondola, restoring lost architectural features and repainting the east approach viaduct.

image copyrightNewport City Council
image captionA new visitor centre will provide more facilities and parking spaces

The 114-year-old structure, designed by French engineer Ferdinand Arnodin, is one of only two working transporter bridges remaining in the UK, and one of only six worldwide.

It allowed workers to cross from their homes on the west bank of the Usk at Pill to the Lysaght steel works on the eastern side without interrupting shipping to and from the docks.

image copyrightAFP
image captionMany transporter bridges - including this one across the Loire in Nantes, France - have been demolished

It is hoped the project will more than double visitor numbers to the site, which are currently between 16,000 and 20,000 people a year.

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