Clifton Suspension Bridge Toll Token
Brass, 21.9mm Hayes 93A.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel is perhaps best remembered for designing the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. Spanning over 700 ft (210 m), and nominally 200 ft (61 m) above the River Avon, it had the longest span of any bridge in the world at the time of construction. Work on the Clifton bridge started in 1831, but was suspended. Brunel did not live to see the bridge finished. Work recommenced in 1862 and was completed in 1864, five years after Brunel's death.
In 1860 the Clifton Bridge Company had been set up to oversee the final stages of completion and manage the operation of the bridge. The revenues from tolls were minimal initially as there was not much traffic; however, this increased after 1920 with greater car ownership. The bridge is managed by a charitable trust authorised to manage the bridge and collect tolls by Acts of Parliament in 1952, 1980 and 1986. A toll of £0.50 has been levied on vehicles since 2007, but the £0.05 toll that the Act allows for cyclists or pedestrians is not collected. Human toll collectors were replaced by automated machines in 1975. The tolls are used to pay for the upkeep of the bridge, including the strengthening of the chain anchor points, which was done in 1925 and 1939, and regular painting and maintenance, which is carried out from a motorised cradle slung beneath the deck. As of 2008 over 4 million vehicles cross the bridge each year. In February 2012, the bridge trustees applied to the Department for Transport to increase the toll to £1, but as of March 2013 that rise has not occurred.
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By Mike Carter and Malcolm Johnson