For 122 years Tower Bridge has spanned the Thames in London, but there is concern about the recent announcement that it will close for three months for major repairs to be performed.
“Well it’s kind of unusual isn’t it? There’s not many bridges that look as impressive as it does, and literally opens up in the middle of an iconic city and lets usually old ships through them,” said Garrett Emmerson, Transport for London’s chief operating officer for surface transport.
In what is a controversial decision, Tower Bridge will be closed for three months for major repairs.
“Well obviously it’s not something you do lightly or even want to do at all,” Mr Emmerson said.
“The fact is that this bridge is over 120 years old. It last had a major refurbishment back in the 1970s.
“Big parts of it are in need of major refurbishment, the decking and the mechanics that lift the bridge up and down.
“Once we’ve talked to the city of London, who own the bridge, and go through the work they need to do and test the necessity of a closure, [then] the real question is when.”
Road traffic is lighter in summer when business slows down and children are on school holidays.
But the traffic on the river gets busier when the weather is warmer, so the bridge works overtime opening and closing to allow them all through.
They’re hoping by completing the work in winter they’ll be less disruption.
At sunrise or sunset, and for all the hours in between, Tower Bridge glistens.
It is one of the most famous bridges in the world and I’m lucky enough to have it in my neighbourhood.
Almost every day I walk past it, watching tourists take photos of it opening and closing to let the river traffic through, catamarans, cruise ships and sailboats.
If they are too tall the bridge gracefully lifts to let them pass, as it has done for 122 years.
Every day 20,000 cars drive across it and thousands of pedestrians and hundreds of cyclists cross it — everyone on a journey somewhere.
The bridge is often the cover girl for the city’s publicity.
It was adorned with Olympic Rings in 2012, painted in royal colours for the Queen’s silver jubilee and has played the role of backdrop for thousands of wedding photos.
A permanent exhibition, the bridge lets visitors wander its high-level, glass-bottomed walkways and peek into its engine room.
All that work has put the bridge under pressure and the wear and tear is showing.
“You always have those decisions as to whether you have an option to do things, four hours at night when nobody is around and take two years to do something, or do you just close it for two to three months and just blitz it,” Mr Emmerson said.
“I think the one thing I’d say is that this bridge is as iconic as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but it doesn’t carry anything like the traffic volumes and doesn’t have a railway running across it, or anything like that.”
The logistics have been complicated — among them the bus routes having to be changed and traffic to be redirected.
“Fortunately it won’t stop people taking pictures of it,” Mr Emmerson said.