A leading expert on the world-famous Tower Bridge in London has said that the hydraulic system is likely to be in need of refurbishment.
A leading expert on the world-famous Tower Bridge in London has said that the hydraulic system is likely to be in need of refurbishment. John Smith, a chartered electrical engineer, told the New Civil Engineer (NCE) that a £1m overhaul is needed, after the bridge’s bascules became stuck open for the second time in 12 months.
On 9 August, the 127-year-old bridge was scheduled to lift to allow a tall ship to pass, but became jammed in place. City of London police described the incident as a ‘technical failure’ and warned drivers and pedestrians to avoid the area. The bridge reopened to traffic after a 12-hour interval.
The bridge normally opens about 800 times a year, and previously became jammed because of a mechanical fault in August last year. Although no more details have been given about the latest fault, Smith commented that the hydraulic engines which drive the shafts are over 40 years old, and should be due for replacement soon.
Smith told the NCE: “I think that the mechanism they have in place is basically getting too old now. It is more or less the same hydraulic system that was put in in the 70s. The last time I saw it, it looked pretty messy to be honest.”
He added: “It wouldn’t be cheap but I think a major refurbishment is most probably needed now which I would guess would cost at least £1M.”
The landmark structure took 8 years to build and opened in 1894. The crossing is formed with two bascules, which move around an off-centre pivot. Originally, the bridge was powered by steam produced from coal-fired boilers, but it was converted to electricity in 1976, making use of hydraulic rams and a hardwired control system.
At the time of its completion, London Bridge was considered the largest and most sophisticated bascule bridge ever made.
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