Connecting a Capital: London's Thames Crossings | The B1M

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12:59   |   Aug 08, 2018


Connecting a Capital: London's Thames Crossings | The B1M
Connecting a Capital: London's Thames Crossings | The B1M thumb Connecting a Capital: London's Thames Crossings | The B1M thumb Connecting a Capital: London's Thames Crossings | The B1M thumb


  • For thousands of years, our cities have grown and developed around rivers and coastal inlets.
  • These waterways allow urban centres to connect with the global economy and until the advent
  • of commercial flight, were the most efficient way a city could do trade and fuel its economy.
  • To connect populations and drive economic growth, humans have been building their way
  • over and under the rivers in our cities for millennia.
  • Running for 346 kilometres (215 miles) through south east England, the River Thames is the
  • lifeblood of London and has played a key role in its development over the last 2,000 years.
  • The United Kingdom’s capital is now one of the largest urban areas in Europe and millions
  • of people use structures to cross the river at its heart every day.
  • Here, we take a journey down the Thames and look at some of the most innovative and impressive
  • crossings keeping London moving.
  • We're starting our journey upstream and just to the west of Central London,
  • where the Albert Bridge connects Battersea with Chelsea.
  • Built in 1873, the bridge is the last remaining example of an Ordish-Lefeuvre design. Whilst
  • the original structure was a modified cable-stayed bridge, it was altered between 1884 and 1887
  • to address structural weaknesses and elements of suspension bridge design were introduced.
  • The rise of cars in the 20th century presented further challenges for the structure and the
  • bridge was again modified. This time, concrete piers were added to support
  • the central span making the Albert Bridge a truly hybrid structure that features elements
  • of Suspension, Cable-Stayed and Beam bridge design.
  • Although the Albert Bridge is today the second least-used bridge in London (after Southwark
  • Bridge) - mainly due to limits on traffic volumes imposed to prolong its life span - its
  • elegance, boosted further at night with some 4,000 LED bulbs, makes it arguably the most
  • beautiful of all the Thames crossings.
  • Moving down-river and into central London,
  • we come to two very similar looking bridges connecting Westminster on the north bank and
  • Lambeth on the south. The current Lambeth Bridge is the second iteration
  • of a bridge to be located just south of the Palace of Westminster.
  • The original bridge was built in 1862 and used a suspension structure. However steep
  • approaches meant that many horses were afraid to cross the bridge and it ended up being used
  • almost exclusively by pedestrians. Also suffering from corrosion the original,
  • under-utilised Lambeth Bridge was replaced in 1932 by the current five-span steel arch
  • bridge we see today.
  • Built between 1739 and 1750, the original
  • Westminster Bridge was set to be formed from timber atop stone piers.
  • However, in the winter of 1739-40 - early on in the bridge’s construction work - the
  • Thames froze solid damaging the 140 piles that had been driven into the riverbed. This
  • led to a re-design of the crossing - and proposals for a masonry structure were adopted.
  • In 1750, a 15-arch masonry bridge was completed, becoming the first permanent river crossing
  • in central London for almost 600 years. But by the mid 19th century, increased tide
  • flow in the Thames was causing the structure to subside, and the bridge was replaced again
  • in 1862 with the seven-arch cast iron crossing we see today.
  • The close positioning of both the Westminster and Lambeth Bridges to the Palace of Westminster
  • is acknowledged in their colouring with Westminster Bridge painted green to reflect the House
  • of Commons, and Lambeth Bridge painted red, nodding to the House of Lords.
  • The Hungerford Bridge is named after the Hungerford Markets that formerly occupied the site now
  • known as Charing Cross station. The structure was originally a Brunel-designed
  • suspension footbridge that linked the markets with London's Southbank.
  • In 1859, the original bridge was purchased by the rail company extending the line into
  • Charing Cross and was removed to make way for the much larger structure we see today.
  • The suspension chains from the original crossing were later re-used in the construction of
  • the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. While various pedestrian routes had existed
  • across the Hungerford Bridge for over half a century, they were generally narrow, poorly
  • maintained and often garnered a reputation as an unpleasant way across the river.
  • Completed in 2002, the Golden Jubilee Bridges were built to replace the unpopular footpaths
  • that preceded them. With a need to keep the central Hungerford
  • Bridge open during construction works, the proximity of foundations to London’s Bakerloo
  • tube line tunnels and the risk of encountering unexploded Second World War ordnance in the
  • river, the construction of these seemingly simple structures proved extremely complex.
  • Excavation works could only be carried out when the tube was closed, and for added safety,
  • the foundations were partly dug by hand.
  • Not to be confused with the neighbouring Blackfriars
  • Bridge which carries pedestrian and road traffic, the original Blackfriars Railway Bridge was
  • completed in 1864. With most railway services concentrated around
  • Waterloo station by the 1920s, the bridge’s uses severely declined and in 1985 the structure
  • was removed as it had become too weak to support modern trains.
  • Today, all that remains of the original bridge are its red support columns standing in the
  • river, together with the southern abutment which is now a Grade II listed structure.
  • The current Blackfriars Railway Bridge was built slightly downstream to the original.
  • Initially called the St Paul's Railway Bridge, its name changed in 1937 when St Pauls Station
  • was renamed Blackfriars. Today the bridge carries the extended Blackfriars
  • Railway Station platforms which form part of the cross-London Thameslink service.
  • Next-up we have the rather infamous Millennium Footbridge.
  • This low-profile suspension crossing originally opened on 10 June 2000, before closing just
  • two days later due to excessive vibrations brought about by pedestrian foot traffic.
  • To counter the vibrations, engineers retrofitted the bridge with 37 fluid-viscous dampers to
  • control horizontal movement and 52 tuned mass dampers to counter vertical movement.
  • Re-opening in 2002 the bridge is now a staple for tourists and locals crossing the Thames,
  • offering one of the best views of St Paul’s in London.
  • While its iconic status often sees it referred to as “London Bridge” (a much more humble
  • structure found half a mile upstream) Tower Bridge gets its name from the nearby Tower
  • of London. The combination suspension and bascule (draw)
  • bridge was built between 1886 and 1894. It consists of two large towers linked at
  • high level by horizontal walkways. The bascule pivots and operating machinery that raise
  • the central bridge deck allowing ships to pass are housed in the base of each tower.
  • The Thames Tunnel was a true ground breaker of its time.
  • Running for some 396 metres (1,300 feet) underneath the Thames at a depth of 23 metres at high
  • tide, this was the first tunnel to be successfully constructed under a navigable river and took
  • almost 20 years to complete, with works running from 1825 to 1843.
  • This feat was made possible by the invention of the “tunnelling shield” by Marc Isambard
  • Brunel and Thomas Cochrane. This shield allowed workers to excavate sections of earth behind
  • a protective wall that prevented the unstable ground from collapsing in on them.
  • As sections were excavated the shield would be inched forward using jacks, allowing the
  • newly exposed section of tunnel to be lined with bricks.
  • While it was originally intended for horse drawn carriages, the tunnel was never actually
  • used for this purpose and operated as a pedestrian route until 1865 when it was converted into
  • a rail tunnel. Today it serves as part of Transport for London’s overground network.
  • Moving out into the docklands, we come to one of the narrowest crossings anywhere along the river.
  • At just 2.7 meters (9 feet) in diameter, the Greenwich Foot tunnel is a pedestrian only
  • path beneath the Thames that connects Greenwich with the Isle of Dogs.
  • Opened in 1902 and running for 370 metres (1,215 feet), the tunnel forms part of the
  • United Kingdom's National Cycle Route 1, linking Inverness in Scotland all the way to Dover
  • on the south coast of England. Despite its significance on the cycle route,
  • riders are required to dismount through the tunnel.
  • Our next crossing is quite literally in a league of its own. Opened just ahead of the
  • London Olympic Games in 2012, the Emirates Air Line was the first urban cable car built
  • in the United Kingdom. The 1,100m (3,600 foot) gondola line travels
  • up to 90 metres (300 feet) above the surface of the Thames and is supported by three towers
  • along its route. It not only offers tourists a unique view
  • of the city, but it is an official part of the Transport for London network, linking
  • the Greenwich peninsula south of the Thames to the Royal Victoria Docks and the Docklands
  • Light Railway (DLR) on the north bank. During the Olympics, the Air Line provided
  • a useful link between the O2 and ExCel Arenas which were both hosting events.
  • Located just outside of London, the final stop on our journey down the Thames is the
  • heavily utilised Dartford Crossing. In fact consisting of three parts, the crossing
  • includes two tunnels and the impressive Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, linking Thurrock in Essex
  • with Dartford in Kent. Opened in three stages between 1963 and 1991,
  • the first tunnel at the crossing consisted of just one lane of traffic in each direction.
  • Rapid growth in the area led to a second tunnel being constructed in 1980, doubling capacity
  • with two lanes flowing north and south. Finally, following the completion of the M25
  • motorway in 1986, the Queen Elizabeth II bridge was built to further increase capacity.
  • The bridge’s four supporting pylons stand 137 metres high and suspend a roadway some
  • 61 metres (200 feet) above the surface of the river. With a main span of 450 metres
  • (1,480 feet) the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge was the longest cable-stayed bridge in Europe
  • when it completed in 1991. Today, the Dartford Crossing consists of four
  • lanes of southbound traffic crossing the bridge, while all northbound traffic travels through
  • the two tunnels. It remains one of the busiest river crossings in Europe with over 160,000
  • vehicles using the route every day.
  • If you enjoyed this video and would like to get more from the definitive video
  • channel for construction, subscribe to The B1M.

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We take a journey down the Thames and look at some of the most innovative and impressive crossings keeping London moving! For more by The B1M subscribe now: http://ow.ly/GxW7y

Read the full story on this video, including images and useful links, here: http://www.theb1m.com/video/connecting-a-capital-londons-thames-crossings

Images and footage courtesy of Google Earth, Dan Cortese, David Iliff, Joe Dunckley, Fred Mills, Lars Ploughmann and Tom Bayly.

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