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Hungerford bridge (part four)
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Not even the Luftwaffe could destroy the Hungerford Bridge. During an air raid in 1941Charing Cross station was hit, and a parachute mine landed on the bridge but failed to explode. During a complicated and dangerous six-hour operation, Lieutenant Gidden managed to defuse the bomb and was later awarded the George Cross for his bravery. In June 1944 a V1 flying bomb hit the bridge, knocking out two lines, but it was back in operation by the following day.

For visitors to the 1951 Festival of Britain on the South Bank, a Bailey bridge was erected on the upstream side of the railway bridge by the Royal Engineers, but it was dismantled afterwards. For Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953 the full length of the bridge was decorated with a planting of an old train with a lion as engine-driver. For many years the narrow and gloomy footbridge on the downstream side of the bridge was the only way visitors could get across the river to the new attractions on the South Bank, and it was always an unpleasant experience, with the screeching trains only feet away from you. But that was about to change. In 1996 a competition was held for new footbridges to be added to each side of the bridge. The competition was won by Lifschutz Davidson and the engineers WSP, and work began in 2000. The new construction was a very complex operation, made more complicated by the fact that the Northern and Bakerloo Underground lines ran under the Thames at this point, and there was also a fear that there may have been unexploded Second World War bombs on the riverbed, which meant some of the foundations had to be dug by hand. This problem led to the designs being modified and added hugely to the cost of the project, which was fortunately bailed out by London's new Mayor, Ken Livingstone, who was able to provide the extra 16.7 million pound required.


Hungerford bridge (part four)

The wide decks of the Golden Jubilee Bridges are popular with Londoners and visitors, offering fine views up and down the river.




The three 225-ton concrete beams that support the footbridges were towed upriver by barges, an impressive sight attracting many spectators, and were dropped into place using cranes and divers. The walkways themselves are 984-foot concrete decks, attached by steel cables to a forest of leaning suspension masts. The upstream bridge was completed and opened in May 2002. Then the old downstream footbridge was removed and that side built,the work being finished by September. The bridges were officially opened in July 2003 by Princess Alexandra and were named the Golden Jubilee Bridges to commemorate the Queen's fifty years on the throne.

The total cost of construction was 40 million pounds, but the result is a complete triumph. London has gained two attractive pedestrian river crossings offering wonderful views in both directions, and the large numbers using them indicate that people feel they are great places to be. They are popular with Londoners and visitors alike, offering good links from the West End to the regenerated South Bank, and they look particularly striking at night, when they are illuminated. They also have the benefit of drawing one's attention away from the ugly old railway bridge, though you can appreciate Brunel's restored piers at close quarters. There are lifts at both ends of the bridges, so they are fully accessible for those with mobility difficulties. The only inconvenience is that it is not possible to cross from one side to the other except at the two ends. There were plans to open up a passageway through the Surrey pier, but this was not carried out and it is unlikely now that it ever will be.

On the south side of the bridge is the Royal Festival Hall, a concert hall that is all that remains of the Festival of Britain. It is now the heart of the South Bank Centre, which includes the Hayward Gallery, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room. After a 90 million pounds renovation, the Royal Festival Hall reopened in the summer of 2007, with improved acoustics and better facilities. There are lots of shops, cafes and restaurants in and around the complex, making it a lively place to visit. On the north bank is the “new” Charing Cross station. In the late 1980s it was redeveloped, with the dramatic office block, Embankment Place, designed by Terry Farrell, being built over the platforms.



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