Thursday, 30 April 2009

Crossings of the River Thames 22a: The Hungerford Railway Bridge/Golden Jubilee Bridges (Part 1)

The Hungerford Railway Bridge is one of three railway crossings in London that also combine pedestrian access alongside the glistening steel lines that glide across the river. While the rail bridges at Fulham and Barnes are quite low key affairs, the Hungerford Bridge or to give the pedestrian walkways their proper names, the Golden Jubilee Bridges were originally intended for the new Millennium. However delays in their construction meant that it opened two years later. Still, for once, these delays were understandable. Along with having to keep the existing pedestrian access open as well as not interfere with the rail operations, both the Northern and Bakerloo lines pass within lobbing distance of the pedestrian walkways. Add to that the uncertainty of unexploded ordinances in the riverbed and their construction is quite a testament to the plucky days of the boom years and lottery spending.



I really want to do this bridge justice. And that is why this is a 'part 1' to the bridge. April has been a busy month for me, and I managed to snatch only the briefest of visits to Hungerford in order to get snaps for this post. So I will be returning next month to complete the viewing of what has to be one of my favourite crossings in the capital.

The old footbridge was really dodgy. It has always been my favourite way to cross the river on foot, being handy to Waterloo and linking us South Londoners to the West End without the need to traverse the swine flu infested tube network. But the old bridge was unpleasant in so many ways. Narrow, poorly lit, an afterthought bolted onto the railway arches. Thankfully only the memories of that awful crossing remain, plus the approach to the bridge from Charring Cross station...



I suppose in terms of safety, not much has changed in London, but at least it is now far more pleasant to actually cross the river at this point. Wide and impressive, I no longer am rattled by the trains leaving for the Kent countryside. Lights bean down onto the walkway and unlike the poorly maintained Millennium Bridge (to be reported on later this year), you actually feel invited to cross the river at this point. To quote a critic, this is Classy Archetecture.



This bridge is really a representation everything that expresses the best of the London. From its design and construction, the fact that it utilises an existing crossing and made it so much better. It is far more than a crossing but a real landmark, something that is often overlooked when in the thick of the Central London. It links two artistic hubs, the glitzy West End and the ritzy South Bank. The Hungerford provides valuable wandering territory when taking out a date and it still provides a useful cut-through in the rat warren that is the centre of town. The bridge provides stunning views of the surrounding riverside as well as combining the genius of Victorian and Modern day technology. And surprisingly for London, the Golden Jubilee Bridges are a great piece of forward planning. It is big enough to accommodate today's crowds, while having plenty of space to cope with increased footfall. It serves both commuters of work and leisure as well as people arriving and departing on either side of the river. To put it simply, what is there not to like about the Hungerford Bridge? For once, I really can wholeheartedly say, well done and thank you the people, the planners, the movers and shakers behind the bridge, the people who designed it and the people who built it. Often in Britain we are very quick to knock our own achievements. In the grand scheme of things, the Golden Jubilee Bridges may not be as vital to the city as the Howrah is to Kolkata but it is a fine addition to this great city. So to all those who were involved in the making of this bridge, from me, a very humble Londoner, thank you for all your hard work. It was worth it...



Getting there and away:

The closest bus routes are the 77 and RV1 on the South Bank and the 388 and Nightbus N550 on the North Bank. On the South Bank the nearest station in Waterloo (Underground and Rail). On the north side of the river Embankment provides the nearest tube link right by the steps to the bridge, while Charring Cross (Rail and Underground station) is a few minutes walk away.

3 comments:

Asad said...

It is a top bridge, no doubt about it. Bit of a chick bridge, but none the worse for that...

magiceye said...

this is so interesting

el director! said...

thanks guys! asad, i completely agree, this is 'dating country'. magiceye, while my photos does not give it the justice it deserves, i really do think that the hungerford bridge is one of london's top sights.