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Albert bridge (part three)
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By the early 1970s the bridge was again showing signs of weakness, and a 2-ton weight limit was imposed. Some blamed the tidal flow system for encouraging too much traffic to use the bridge. The Greater London Council claimed that the bridge needed urgent strengthening and they were given permission to add two central piers in the middle of the river, though they still insisted the bridge would need to be demolished within fifteen years. Local pressure groups were opposed to this solution, which would seriously affect the look of the bridge. They wanted the bridge to be closed to traffic permanently and to become a pedestrian bridge. In April 1972 the bridge closed for the repairs to be carried out. As well as installing the new concrete piers, the main girder was strengthened and a new lighter deck was laid. In May 1973 a petition with two thousand signatures, including those of John Betjeman, Sybil Thorndike and Laurie Lee, was handed in to the GLC asking them to keep the bridge closed to traffic after the repairs were finished. Although the GLC reopened the bridge in July, it was still their intention to close it permanently, once a minor legal matter had been dealt with. However, a public enquiry in 1974 recommended the bridge stay open, as closing it would cause too much congestion on adjacent bridges.

Albert bridge (part three)

The Albert Bridge looking its best at dusk as its lights come on.

The tidal flow system was finally abandoned in 1990, mainly to prevent coaches and lorries flouting the 2-ton weight limit. As well as a permanent two-way traffic system being introduced, a traffic island was installed on the south side to prevent large vehicles getting through. By 2006 further restrictions had to be imposed, limiting northbound traffic to one lane instead of two, as many four-wheel-drive vehicles (the so-called 'Chelsea tractors'), which are well over the 2-ton limit, were using the bridge, and this was the only way to limit the number of vehicles on the bridge at any one time.

The Albert Bridge now seems to be secure for the foreseeable future, and it remains one of London's best-loved bridges. It is reminiscent of a seaside pier, with its lavish cast-iron decoration, its spider's web of cables and the pastel shades of its paintwork. It is most impressive at night, when the lights along the chains are lit up, giving it a fairy-tale look. It is hardly surprising that such an attractive London landmark has made regular appearances in television dramas, advertising and a number of major films, including Sliding Doors and A Clockwork Orange.

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