Part of a series of visibility upgrades to some of the world's most recognizable tourist sites, from Paris' Eiffel Tower to the Grand Canyon, London's Tower Bridge has unveiled its newest attraction - a glass-floored walkway suspended 138ft. above the River Thames, with a second slated for completion on December 1, 2014.
Originally opened in 1894 as a means to alleviate heavy traffic congestion on both sides of the river, the Tower Bridge quickly achieved notoriety as the only bridge in London to lift open, allowing large ships to pass, unabated, beneath. Initially, Tower Bridge featured multiple pedestrian walkways that loomed 4 storeys above the roadway below, allowing foot-traffic to cross the river when the bridge was up for shipping lane traffic. Despite the walkways' convenience, they were rarely used - pedestrians seemed to prefer watching the ships from the river banks, as opposed to crossing the river - and they quickly became neglected, leading to their eventual closure until 1982.
In 1982 the Tower Bridge Exhibition opened, inviting tourists to explore the bridge's un-rivaled design, allowing access to not only revamped pedestrian walkways, but also the engine rooms. Though the exhibition was considered a success and still runs to this day, administrators would commonly see visitors peering over the sides to catch a glimpse of the bridge opening and closing, and noticed that the bridge's lift wasn't visible from the walkways - until now.
The £1 million project was co-funded by both the Bridge House Estates and the City of London, and has been in planning and construction stages for over two years. The installation of glass-floored walkways is no small undertaking and as of today only the first of two new walkways has been completed. During the building process, many of the original walkway materials - solid oak and Victorian carbon-steel - had to be removed (and subsequently maintained for historic preservation), replaced by locally sourced glass panels and steel window frames from Sheffield and London respectively.
Each glass walkway is made from six layers of half-ton, reinforced glass panels, providing visitors with crystal clear views of the River Thames, and the bridge lifts underfoot. Lift schedules are provided in advance, but in the off-chance that you find yourself peering through Tower Bridge's elevated glass walkway in-between lifts, only to see the frantic speckles of car traffic below, hope is not lost. Late this November, the Tower Bridge administration will release an "Augmented Reality" app, allowing visitors to sync their smartphones camera with coded floor-graphics, in effect projecting a 360 degree, virtual, interactive bridge-lift simulation to screens within the walkways.
England's historic capital city has long been a tourist destination favorite, its sheer volume of breathtaking architecture and monuments is rarely rivaled, and now with the addition of the Tower Bridge's glass-floor walkways, a vacation in London looks even more tantalizing. The glass-floored walkways are open daily from 9:30am to 5:00pm October through March, and from 10:00am to 5:30pm April to September. Ticket prices vary, adults £9.00, children aged 5-15 £3.90, and families from £18.00. Eager to check out Tower Bridge as soon as possible? Auto Europe can help you get there. From international airfare and hotel booking, to car rental reservations, Auto Europe can make your next trip to England possible in only a few clicks.