18th January 2017 • Tower Bridge Blog
Opening Tower Bridge at New Year
Being involved in a Tower Bridge lift is always special, but what is it like at midnight on New Year’s Eve? One of our security supervisors, Garry, shares his experience...
It was the end of a year and the start of another; what better way to celebrate than to assist in the lifting of Tower Bridge? Although the bridge doesn’t open especially to welcome in the New Year, we often receive New Year’s Eve bridge lift requests from large cruises – or what we call ‘party boats’, hosting passengers wishing to bring in the new year by sailing under Tower Bridge in its raised position. In early November the requests were sent to all trained Bridge Crew to see who was available and, knowing how difficult getting cover can be and not having any plans myself, I added my name to the list. There were three scheduled lifts at 23:30, 23:55 and 00:30 and I was selected (out of a hat) to assist.
The main duty of the Bridge Crew during a bridge lift is to ensure that members of the public are kept safe. A member of the crew is positioned on each of the four pedestrian gates to ensure they are securely closed before the Bridge can be opened. Bridge Crewing staff help to act as the eyes and ears for the Bridge Driver.
On the night, large crowds gather, trying to gain a good view of the fireworks at Westminster. I have to be the bearer of bad news and explain to the crowds that they won’t be able to see anything from road level because of the bend in the river, they should go further up the Thames for a better view.
A large City of London police presence is on Tower Bridge to help staff clear the crowds so that the bridge lifts can go-ahead. Announcements warning pedestrians that that the bridge is lifting are usually made around 2 minutes before the lift but, because of the crowds, the Bridge Driver decides to do this earlier to give everyone enough time to clear.
The crowds’ disappointment in not viewing the fireworks quickly dissipated and instead there was a great atmosphere with everyone waiting to welcome in the New Year.
Once Paddle Steamer Dixie Queen had passed through for the final time at 00:30, the Crew wished each other a Happy New Year. I then made my way home to my pregnant wife to wish her a happy new year… and what a year it’s going to be!
For information on the dates and times of future bridge lifts, please visit our bridge lifts page.
Garry, Security Supervisor