What is going on at Tower Bridge?

Tower Bridge may be closed to vehicles at present, but it’s a fascinating structure.

For many people staying in serviced apartments in London, Tower Bridge is a very familiar site. As well as being an imposing landmark, it is also used regularly as a crossing point over the Thames, but not right now! Tower Bridge is currently closed to all vehicle traffic, with only pedestrians and those using its exhibition space able to gain access to the structure.

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Why is Tower Bridge closed?

Tower Bridge is a grand old dame and was originally constructed between 1886 and 1894. It’s safe to say that she’s looking good for more than 122 years of age, but it’s no coincidence that she’s in such great nick. Once in a while, she needs to undergo maintenance work that is a bit more in-depth than her usual facelifts and this means closing for a period.

Essential works started on the bridge on October 1st and are expected to continue until December 30th, allowing her to re-open shiny and refreshed for 2017. The main job being carried out is the resurfacing of Tower Bridge’s famous bascules, which allow it to be lowered and raised. The timber decking of the structure was last refurbished in the ‘70s and therefore requires some attention.

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Wear and tear

When it’s open as normal, Tower Bridge sees more than 40,000 people using it as a river crossing every day. This includes 21,000 vehicles, which put added strain on the structure and highlights the importance for regular maintenance.

Diversions for vehicles

For the duration of the closure, no cars, buses or bicycles are allowed to cross the bridge, with a number of diversions put in place.

Those travelling northbound should follow this route set out by Transport for London (TfL):

• Either Newington Causeway or Great Dover Street

• Borough High Street

• London Bridge

• King William Street (south of Monument junction) or Gracechurch St

• Either Eastcheap – Great Tower Street – Byward Street – Tower Hill or Fenchurch Street – Aldgate

Meanwhile, the southbound alternative is as follows:

• Mansell Street

• Tower Hill

• Byward Street

• Upper Thames Street

• Southwark Bridge

• Southwark Bridge Road

• Marshalsea

• Great Dover Street

As Tower Bridge is exempt from the Congestion Charge, those following the specified diversion routes will not need to pay it.

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Walk the bridge

The closure of the bridge may be an issue for some drivers, but for pedestrians it offers a unique opportunity to see how the maintenance works are carried out. A great way to do this is to use the newly-installed high-level glass walkway that stretches across the river above the bridge. From here, you can look down on the workers from 42 metres above the Thames. You may even see the impressive bascules being raised.

For three weekends during the works, however, an entire closure of Tower Bridge will be necessary, meaning even pedestrians won’t be granted access. They are:

• Saturday 26 to Sunday 27 November

• Saturday 3 to Sunday 4 December

• Saturday 10 to Sunday 11 December

During these times, a free ferry service will transport pedestrians across the river.

Interesting facts about Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge is named after the Tower of London, not far from the structure.

• More than 50 designs for Tower Bridge were submitted and the one that was chosen was created by Sir Horace Jones, coincidentally one of the judges!

• It takes five minutes to raise the bastules, each weighing 1,000 tons each, due to a clever counterbalance system.

• The bridge opens around 1,000 times a year and river traffic is given priority over road users.

• It took more than 400 workers, 7,000 tons of concrete and 11,000 tons of steel to build Tower Bridge.

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