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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 May, 2004, 00:05 GMT 01:05 UK
France 'completes' tallest bridge
Artists impression of the Millau Bridge(Effiage)
Cars will travel 270m above the Tarn Valley on the Millau Bridge
Construction workers in southern France have connected the last link in the world's highest road bridge.

The bridge over the River Tarn in the Massif Central mountains will carry vehicles across a 2.5km (1.5 miles) valley at a height of 270m (885ft).

When finished, the highest pillar will stand at just over 340m (1,115ft) tall.

The Millau bridge is expected to open for traffic by the end of the year, completing a new motorway link between Paris and the Mediterranean.

Once its pylons and giant suspension cables are in place, the structure will be higher than the Eiffel Tower, which reaches 343m.

'Heroic and extraordinary'

Workers on either side of the bridge shook hands and opened bottles of champagne after the final section was lowered into place on Friday afternoon, AFP news agency reported.

It is being constructed by Eiffage, the company that built the Eiffel Tower, and will have taken three-and-a-half years to complete.

Find out more about the Millau bridge

The company has shouldered the 260m euro construction cost ($300m) in return for the right to collect receipts from a bridge toll for 75 years.

Like Concorde and the Channel Tunnel, the bridge is Franco-British. The world-renowned architect Norman Foster is behind the design.

"I think it's heroic, it's extraordinary," he told BBC News Online after a visit to the site late last year.

"To have discussions, conversations, studies and models and then to see that being translated into reality in this landscape is an extraordinary experience and I think it touches everyone."

The project was due to take three years, but weather conditions put work on the bridge behind schedule.

The heat wave over last year's summer meant some of the welding could not be done, and over the previous winter it was so cold some work had to be halted.

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