LONDON — Got a head for heights? If so, step right this way, across a glass walkway 42 metres above the River Thames.
The Tower Bridge Exhibition, at the city's iconic bascule and suspension bridge spanning the river, has just unveiled a brand new feature at the attraction. New glass floors in the high-level walkways, two years in the planning and costing £1 million ($1.6 million), offer visitors the chance to look down on river below and the estimated 40,000 people who cross the bridge every day.
The two panels measure 11 metres by 1.8 metres and weigh around 530kg each, and their installation mark the biggest change to the exhibition since it opened to the public in 1982. Engineers carefully designed the panels to ensure they don't scratch or crack and installed special lighting to protect the modesty of people walking across them. They'll no doubt be hoping the glass doesn't crack as it did on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower in Chicago earlier this year.
The project has been funded by the City of London Corporation and the charitable Bridge House Estates. Around 600,000 people a year visit the Tower Bridge Exhibition, generating money that goes to city charities.
The view was somewhat daunting for some of the early visitors. “There is that sense of trepidation,” said Chris Earlie, head of the Tower Bridge Exhibition. “It is more exciting I think because you are not actually that high, you can see everything in detail beneath you. I do a lot of climbing and adventure sports but, even for me, the first time was a bit difficult.”
Tower Bridge Exhibition has also launched an augmented reality app, providing visitors with an immersive 360 degrees experience of the bridge raising beneath their feet. It's free to download from their website as well as iTunes and Google Play.
Tower Bridge was constructed between 1886–1894 at a cost of £1.2 billion ($1.9 billion) in today's money. The higher walkway was initially open to the public but closed in 1910 due to lack of use. It was also a haunt for pickpockets and prostitutes.
The ideal time to visit the glass walkway is during one of the 850 times a year that the bridge is lifted.
Tags: GLASS WALKWAY, LIFESTYLE, LONDON, TOWER BRIDGE, TRAVEL & LEISURE, UK