An official and objective ranking of the seven bridges linking Newcastle and Gateshead

The Tyne and Gateshead Millennium Bridges, seen from the High Level Bridge. Image: Getty.

I’ve just got back from Newcastle. It was completely brilliant – great architecture, great cultural offering, great seaside, great pubs – and so it’s now a source of some regret to me that nobody made me do this years ago.

Probably the most brilliant of all the brilliant things about Newcastle, though, was the bridges. In one stretch of the Tyne, spanning less than a mile, there are seven of them, each linking Newcastle to Gateshead, a completely separate town across the river to its south that is in no way an extension of the city itself.

Image: Google Maps.

In my three days in the region, I managed to find excuses to use five of them, and gazed lovingly at the other two. I am thus the best qualified person there has ever been to draw up an objective ranking of them.

Here it is now.

7th. Redheugh Bridge

A road bridge carrying the A189 across the river from slightly to the west of Newcastle Central Station. There’s been a bridge on the site since 1871, but the current one only dates from 1980, which was not a vintage year for bridges as you can plainly see:

 

The Redheugh Bridge. Image: John-Paul Stephenson/Wikimedia Commons.

It’s… fine, I guess? Like, there’s nothing wrong with it. But it pales next to, well, literally all the other bridges on this stretch of the Tyne, so let’s move on.

6th. King Edward VII Bridge

Carries most of the East Coast Main Line trains across the Tyne, so it’s the one you’re most likely to have used even if you didn’t know it.

The King Edward VII Bridge. Image: Ardfern/Wikimedia Commons.

It opened in 1906, it’s Grade II listed, it’s bloody gorgeous, and in any other city it would be in with a shot of winning the Best Bridge Rosette. But this is Newcastle-Gateshead, my friend. There are better bridges aplenty.

5th. Swing Bridge

This one’s Grade II* listed (note the asterisk), and is even older, dating to 1876. The really cool thing, though, is that it moves: it uses hydraulic pressure to rotate, sitting neatly on its artificial island so that boats can pass.

The Swing Bridge, in the foreground. Image: Tagishsimon/Wikimedia Commons.

Seriously, though, how cool is that? It’s a bridge, but it spins. Honestly.

4th. Gateshead Millennium Bridge

The baby of the pack, this one is, as the name suggests, pretty recent, and only opened in 2001.

The Gateshead Millennium Bridge at night. Image: JaT/Wikimedia Commons.

Two cool things about this bridge. One is that it, like the swing bridge, it rotates, to allow smaller boats up the river – hence its nickname, the Blinking Eye Bridge.

The other is that it has a cycle lane. It’s a pedestrian bridge with a cycle lane. Screw you, drivers, this bridge is for real people.

3rd. Tyne Bridge

This is the most famous of the lot: its Grade II* listed magnificent arch is the best known symbol of the region, and if the design echoes Sydney Harbour Bridge that’s probably because it was designed by the same people, the engineering firm Mott, Hay & Anderson.

Tyne Bridge viewed from Quayside. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

It looms over the buildings of Newcastle Quayside, in a way the bridges of New York do but most British bridges don’t even attempt, and it features heavily in the last episode of one of the best BBC dramas there’s ever been, Our Friends In The North. So why isn’t it top of the list? Because there are other, even better bridges.

2nd. High Level Bridge

I mean, come on, this is just ridiculously gorgeous: a covered bridge, again the sort of thing that’s more common in the new world than the old, which carries a road on one deck and a railway line above it.

You can tell it’s one of the best ones because this one is Grade I listed. And it’s a great viewpoint to see the other bridges. It’s just realy, really cool.

The High Level Bridge. Image: Heworthjb/Wikimedia Commons.

Honestly, it would top the list, except for this one thing.

1st. Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge

The metro station at Newcastle metro is underground. You board a train heading south, expecting to remain underground, but suddenly you’re not just in the light, you’re high above the river, the cities spread out around you. And then, just as suddenly, you’re underground again, beneath Gateshead.

The Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. Image: Gareth James/Wikimedia Commons.

The bridge looks good in itself – much better than the Redheugh Bridge, even though it dates only to 1981. But it’s the magical experience of using it that really makes it brilliant. It’s beautiful. It’s a thing of wonder. It is a reason in itself to visit Newcastle. Honestly, go right now. You won’t regret it. I promise.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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The IPPC report on the melting ice caps makes for terrifying reading

A Greeland iceberg, 2007. Image: Getty.

Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the UN body responsible for communicating the science of climate breakdown – released its long-awaited Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.

Based on almost 7,000 peer-reviewed research articles, the report is a cutting-edge crash course in how human-caused climate breakdown is changing our ice and oceans and what it means for humanity and the living planet. In a nutshell, the news isn’t good.

Cryosphere in decline

Most of us rarely come into contact with the cryosphere, but it is a critical part of our climate system. The term refers to the frozen parts of our planet – the great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, the icebergs that break off and drift in the oceans, the glaciers on our high mountain ranges, our winter snow, the ice on lakes and the polar oceans, and the frozen ground in much of the Arctic landscape called permafrost.

The cryosphere is shrinking. Snow cover is reducing, glaciers and ice sheets are melting and permafrost is thawing. We’ve known this for most of my 25-year career, but the report highlights that melting is accelerating, with potentially disastrous consequences for humanity and marine and high mountain ecosystems.

At the moment, we’re on track to lose more than half of all the permafrost by the end of the century. Thousands of roads and buildings sit on this frozen soil – and their foundations are slowly transitioning to mud. Permafrost also stores almost twice the amount of carbon as is present in the atmosphere. While increased plant growth may be able to offset some of the release of carbon from newly thawed soils, much will be released to the atmosphere, significantly accelerating the pace of global heating.

Sea ice is declining rapidly, and an ice-free Arctic ocean will become a regular summer occurrence as things stand. Indigenous peoples who live in the Arctic are already having to change how they hunt and travel, and some coastal communities are already planning for relocation. Populations of seals, walruses, polar bears, whales and other mammals and sea birds who depend on the ice may crash if sea ice is regularly absent. And as water in its bright-white solid form is much more effective at reflecting heat from the sun, its rapid loss is also accelerating global heating.

Glaciers are also melting. If emissions continue on their current trajectory, smaller glaciers will shrink by more than 80 per cent by the end of the century. This retreat will place increasing strain on the hundreds of millions of people globally who rely on glaciers for water, agriculture, and power. Dangerous landslides, avalanches, rockfalls and floods will become increasingly normal in mountain areas.


Rising oceans, rising problems

All this melting ice means that sea levels are rising. While seas rose globally by around 15cm during the 20th century, they’re now rising more than twice as fast –- and this rate is accelerating.

Thanks to research from myself and others, we now better understand how Antarctica and Greenland’s ice sheets interact with the oceans. As a result, the latest report has upgraded its long-term estimates for how much sea level is expected to rise. Uncertainties still remain, but we’re headed for a rise of between 60 and 110cm by 2100.

Of course, sea level isn’t static. Intense rainfall and cyclones – themselves exacerbated by climate breakdown – can cause water to surge metres above the normal level. The IPCC’s report is very clear: these extreme storm surges we used to expect once per century will now be expected every year by mid-century. In addition to rapidly curbing emissions, we must invest millions to protect at-risk coastal and low-lying areas from flooding and loss of life.

Ocean ecosystems

Up to now, the ocean has taken up more than 90 per cent of the excess heat in the global climate system. Warming to date has already reduced the mixing between water layers and, as a consequence, has reduced the supply of oxygen and nutrients for marine life. By 2100 the ocean will take up five to seven times more heat than it has done in the past 50 years if we don’t change our emissions trajectory. Marine heatwaves are also projected to be more intense, last longer and occur 50 times more often. To top it off, the ocean is becoming more acidic as it continues to absorb a proportion of the carbon dioxide we emit.

Collectively, these pressures place marine life across the globe under unprecedented threat. Some species may move to new waters, but others less able to adapt will decline or even die out. This could cause major problems for communities that depend on local seafood. As it stands, coral reefs – beautiful ecosystems that support thousands of species – will be nearly totally wiped out by the end of the century.

Between the lines

While the document makes some striking statements, it is actually relatively conservative with its conclusions – perhaps because it had to be approved by the 195 nations that ratify the IPCC’s reports. Right now, I would expect that sea level rise and ice melt will occur faster than the report predicts. Ten years ago, I might have said the opposite. But the latest science is painting an increasingly grave picture for the future of our oceans and cryosphere – particularly if we carry on with “business as usual”.

The difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of heating is especially important for the icy poles, which warm much faster than the global average. At 1.5°C of warming, the probability of an ice-free September in the Arctic ocean is one in 100. But at 2°C, we’d expect to see this happening about one-third of the time. Rising sea levels, ocean warming and acidification, melting glaciers, and permafrost also will also happen faster – and with it, the risks to humanity and the living planet increase. It’s up to us and the leaders we choose to stem the rising tide of climate and ecological breakdown.

Mark Brandon, Professor of Polar Oceanography, The Open University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.