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Constructing Australia: The Bridge

Today, it’s impossible to imagine Sydney without it, but the Sydney Harbour Bridge we know and love was almost not built.

Massive, majestic and breathtaking, the bridge was the greatest engineering challenge of its day anywhere on earth. Nothing like it had ever been attempted in Australia.

At a time when there were only 30,000 cars and trucks in the entire city, the Bridge could carry 6000 vehicles and 160 trains every hour and all of Sydney’s people could have easily crossed it in a single afternoon. With its graceful arch rising high above the famous harbour, it remained the tallest structure in the city until the late 1960s.

Completed during the dark days of the Great Depression and opened in March 1932, it is the legacy of a fateful partnership between two very different men -a brilliant engineer, Dr JJC Bradfield and a maverick politician, Jack Lang -who shared a relentless ambition to create “the people’s bridge”. Along the way, they managed to stir up more than one hornets’ nest, both at home and in Britain.

The tale of its construction – beyond describing the immense practical problem – is a story of intense human drama, rich with personal conflict and political intrigue.