London's Millennium Bridge, the so-called Blade of Light, may be hors de combat, but who cares? The City of London and Southwark Council have agreed to a new, wobble-free Thames footbridge that will carry nearly 3.5 million people 240 metres across the river every year between Cannon Street and Bankside.
Compared to the architecturally brilliant and structurally risky Blade of Light, the £14m Jubilee Bridge is an exercise in safety-first design. It has frills – notably four panoramic viewing platforms clasped in elegant trident-like arrays of steel prongs – but it's essentially a glass tube bolted on to the west side of the Cannon Street railway bridge.
And yet this bridge will be a first. For it will not only vibrate with the passage of trains but also positively glow with the promise of retail therapy and riches. Those who take this particular tube to and from the City from autumn 2002 will not be allowed to be bored. The tube will contain advertising and 20 real-time video screens to deliver sponsors' messages and financial and market information.
This, the first covered footbridge across the Thames, owes its existence to property developer and venture capitalist Bill Higgins, who looked down on the Cannon Street rail bridge from the top of a building on Bankside 18 months ago and noticed the narrow footbridge alongside the structure that was used by Railtrack maintenance staff and train drivers wending their way south after work. He realised that the crossing lay on what he describes as "a desire line" between the City and Bankside, with Borough Market, new office developments and the Jubilee Line as the honeypots on the south side.
It wasn't an original idea. When the bridge opened in 1860, part of it operated as a toll footbridge for several years.
To date, though, the proposal seems to have been a shade too radical for the bosses at Railtrack.
"They've been the slow ship in this convoy," said Mr Higgins. "They're saying they want the City of London to have ownership of the bridge. We're going through the treacle with Railtrack at the moment. They should, hopefully, be more co-operative now they can see it's a real project."
The Jubilee Bridge, which will be self-funding and designed by the distinctly non-superstar Architects Design Group from Plymouth, looks like a bargain basement deal at only £25m – providing the tube of desire doesn't overcook pedestrians during summer heatwaves.Reuse content