There’s already a Queen Elizabeth II Bridge

Black and white picture of Aneurin Bevan, a clean-shaven, middle-aged white man wearing a dark grey suit and tie.
Aneurin Bevan, 1943

In today’s Guardian there’s a news story that there is a dispute between local politicians in Gloucestershire and South Wales about a plan to rename the old Severn Bridge. The Welsh want it renamed after Aneurin Bevan (pronounced A-Nye-rin, commonly shortened to Nye), the post-war Labour politician who founded the National Health Service (NHS), while the English want it renamed after the Queen. Councillors in South Gloucestershire, a unitary authority that consists of the northern rural part of the former Avon county, claim that the matter of the bridge’s name should be entirely the business of the English as both ends of the bridge are in England. A second suspension bridge over the lower Severn was built in the 1990s and is officially called the Prince of Wales Bridge, but is still commonly called the Second Severn Crossing despite the public money spent on the renaming.

South Gloucestershire councillor Matthew Riddle claims that the bridge only links England with England. While it’s true that both ends of the actual original Severn Bridge are in England, there is no exit in England on the western side; the bridge runs straight into another bridge over the River Wye which ends in Wales, although it is the best access from Bristol for places in Gloucestershire on the west side of the Severn, such as Lydney and is also convenient for the A466 road, which runs north into England towards Hereford. Most, but not all, of the traffic to Wales has been diverted onto the new bridge, but the old bridge is used when high winds close the old one. It was built to link Bristol and London with Newport and Cardiff.

There aren’t that many large suspension bridges in England and most are named after where they are: the Humber Bridge and Tamar Bridge, for example. Similarly in Scotland, the bridges have names like Kincardine Bridge, Skye Bridge and Forth Bridge. Although traffic reports about the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at Dartford call it the QE2 bridge and there is a large sign with the name on it at each end, road signs refer to the bridge and the tunnels collectively as the “Dartford Crossing”. It’s not necessary to name every big bridge and tunnel after someone, or for there to be monuments to the Queen everywhere, especially things which had nothing to do with the Queen but are public infrastructure projects funded by public money. For two big suspension bridges to have the same name would cause a lot of confusion.

Additionally, the bridge was built to link whole countries and the major cities near the border: Bristol and Cardiff, for example. The matter of its name should not be dictated by rural Tory councillors in South Gloucestershire whose principal reason to dislike Bevan is that he was a Labour politician. At a time when we are facing a global and national health crisis and the people who work for the NHS have made great sacrifices, sometimes their lives, for the whole country’s benefit, Aneurin Bevan’s name would be a perfectly appropriate one for a bridge that was built to link England and Wales and enters Wales through Bevan’s home county of Monmouthshire (he was MP for Ebbw Vale, in the west of the former county).

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