Why is there a Toll?

The Clifton Suspension Bridge has always been a toll bridge.

In 1754, Bristol Merchant William Vick left £1,000 in his will to build a bridge across the River Avon, ‘toll free and made all of stone. By 1829, Vick’s investment had grown to £8,000.

The Society of Merchant Venturers (Bristol’s Chamber of Commerce) knew that more money would be needed to complete the build and maintain the bridge so they applied to Parliament to amend the terms of the will, enabling the building of a toll bridge. The Act was granted on 29th May 1830.

Today, the bridge is maintained by the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust – a non profit making charity established by an Act of Parliament in 1952 (Registered Charity 205658) and headed by a panel of twelve unpaid Trustees.

The Trust receives no financial assistance from central Government, Bristol City Council or North Somerset Council and all maintenance and operating costs must be covered by the toll.

The Bridge is a Grade 1 listed structure which still has around 95% of its original parts. When maintenance work takes place, care must be taken to replace parts like for like.

The Bridge is designed to be flexible, which means that many of its components are constantly in motion. The structure is monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to detect any damage caused by wear and tear, overweight vehicles or extreme weather.

There is an ongoing schedule of maintenance work which keeps the bridge safe and open to the public. Some of the work that has been recently completed includes:

  • An annual bridge inspection by specialist consultants
  • Replacing 1,300 bolts beneath the bridge deck
  • Analysing the movement of tower saddles and ensuring that stresses and strains are being evenly distributed
  • Investigating and monitoring the rock face beneath the bridge
  • Inspection and refurbishment of bridge hangers to ensure safe and even loading
  • Cleaning and refurbishing the stonework of both abutments
  • Waterproofing and resurfacing the bridge deck
  • Replacement of the movement joints
  • Renewal of the toll collection system to reduce delays

The Clifton Suspension Bridge Act allows for a toll for pedestrians, cyclists and animals. This 5 pence toll is not currently levied, and there are no plans to do so. By paying to cross in a vehicle, you are helping to keep the 150 year old ‘icon of Bristol’ open to the public. Thank you for your support!