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Wednesday, April 28, 1999 Published at 09:13 GMT 10:13 UK


Work starts on Millennium bridge

The bridge will be lit to form a "blade of light" across the river

Work on the Millennium Bridge - the first river crossing in central London for more than a century - has been launched by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

The BBC's Geeta Guru-Murthy: Crossing the Thames should take just five minutes
The £16m structure - which will be central London's only dedicated pedestrian bridge across the Thames - will connect St Paul's Cathedral in the City to the new Tate Gallery of Modern Art in Southwark.

Due to open in April 2000, designers say the bridge will afford spectacular views over the capital, lighting up at night to form a "blade of light" across the river.

It will have stainless steel balustrades and handrails, and an aluminium deck.

About four million pedestrians a year are expected to cross free of charge the four-metre wide bridge which will be open for 24 hours.

[ image: Central London's first new river crossing since Tower Bridge]
Central London's first new river crossing since Tower Bridge
It will be central London's first new river crossing since the opening of Tower Bridge in 1894.

It has been designed by a collaboration of top architects Foster and Partners, sculptor Sir Anthony Caro and Chris Wise of the Ove Arup engineering company.

The main works contract has been let to the joint venture team of Sir Robert McAlpine and Danish bridge-building experts Monberg Thorsen.

Funding for the project includes £7.1m from The Millennium Commission - and a £3.5m grant from the Corporation of London.

Bridge facts

  • Theatrical performances will be staged on bridges across the Thames to celebrate on New Year's Eve 1999
  • In medieval times, Thames bridges featured houses and shops - and fairs would be held on the frozen surface of the river
  • In 1953, a 61-year-old major was given a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to flying under 15 Thames bridges in a plane with a 36ft wingspan.
  • The design for the new bridge was selected from more than 200 entries to a competition sponsored by the Financial Times

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