The Sydney Harbour Bridge is not the longest steel-arch Bridge in the world, but the Guinness Book of Records lists it as the worlds widest long-span Bridge at 48.8 metres (151.3 feet) wide. Up until 1967, it was also Sydney’s tallest structure. Fondly known by the locals as the 'Coat hanger', the Sydney Harbour Bridge celebrated its 80th birthday in 2012, with its official opening in March 1932.

Sydney Harbour Bridge(111561)
Credit: Jason Merlino

Construction facts and Figures


For many Sydney inhabitants, the Bridge construction was an "iron lung" that offered employment in a very depressed time. During the eight years of its construction from 1924 to 1932, an estimated total of between 2,500–4,000 workers were employed in various aspects of its building. Working on the bridge was a very dangerous occupation, which partly accounted for bridge workers being the highest paid employees across all industries at the time. Most of the bridge workers did get above award wages as compensation for the dangerous and difficult conditions. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court, in granting substantial increases in wages to workmen on the arch construction of the bridge commented:

The work is unusually laborious and hazardous, and of a nature imposing nervous strain which, fortunately, men are not often asked to endure. Some of them work in confined spaces and in strained positions, whilst the work of riggers is unusually difficult and dangerous. The men are necessarily picked workmen of peculiar temperament.

There were many accidents during the eight years of construction with sixteen workers losing their lives whilst on the job.

Workers buring the bridge construction
Credit: Historic Houses Trust


The constructed of the Bridge began simultaneously at both Dawes Point and Milsons Point. The two sides joined in the middle eight years later at around 10pm on 19 August 1930. The Bridge’s northern and southern approaches saw around 800 family homes demolished without any compensation from the government. Many of these homes were in the Rocks area where between 60% and 70% of the buildings were demolished.

When the construction work ended, there were fears among the public that it would not be able to withstand the added weight of traffic crossing. In the month before the opening, its safety was given a practical test by moving 96 steam locomotives laid end to end along the railway tracks on both sides of the bridge. This test applying a load that was many times greater than anything that would be expected under normal operating conditions. Passing the test removed the fear of using the bridge because it might buckle or even collapse.

Test locomotives lined up on the Sydney Harbour Bridge


The longest span of the Bridge is 503 metres (1650 feet) however the total length is 1.15km (3770 feet) when including both approaches. There are about 6 million rivets holding the bridge together with a combined weight of  3,200 tonnes.

Initially the Bridge was painted three times. This used 272,000 litres of paint. Currently, each time the bridge is painted, about 80,000 litres of paint is used. When the Bridge opened, an average of 11,000 vehicles crossed it each day. Today the bridge carries about 14 times more traffic with about 160,000 cars crossing.

In 1998 the Bridge Climb tourism company began operating. It has become an incredibly popular tourist attraction with tours leaving every ten minutes. Bridge Climb tourists have included world-famous people; Prince Frederik and Princess Mary of Denmark, Matt Damon, Hugo Weaving, Sarah Ferguson, Cathy Freeman, Kylie Minogue and Kostya Tszyu.