MORE than 150 years after Chepstow Rail Bridge was first opened to the public, local historian John Burrows marvels at the structure – built by one of Britain’s most important historical figures – and how it has been revived, at least temporarily, as a key landmark on the London to Wales route.

Designed and built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the bridge was first opened to the public in July 1852 as part of the engineer’s vision for a railway network between the capital and West Wales, opening up new trade links with the United States.

“Whilst a 166th anniversary of a bridge isn’t a standard anniversary, and London to Swansea trains are occasionally routed through Chepstow on Sundays and other days when the tunnel is closed, this year trains have been re-routed for the past several weeks via Chepstow”, Mr Burrows said.

“This coincides with the current electrification works and the 166th anniversary of the bridge built by the great engineer Brunel specifically for the London to Swansea route, and for Milford Haven and the world beyond.”

“This week is the anniversary of the first test of the bridge and Brunel’s visit.”

The bridge was opened to the public on July 19, 1852.

Congestion and rail network issues may seem like modern problems, but Brunel’s bridge was a godsend to travellers passing through Chepstow who, until 1852, had to get out at Chepstow East and cross the 1816 cast iron bridge to get on a new train at Chepstow West station, Mr Burrows explained.