Millennium Bridge, London
The bridge seen from a restaurant in the Tate Modern gallery. St. Paul's Cathedral is across the river.
|Official name||London Millennium Footbridge|
|Maintained by||Bridge House Estates,
City of London Corporation
|Total length||370 metres (1,214 ft)|
|Width||4 metres (13 ft)|
|Longest span||144 metres (472 ft)|
|Constructed by||Monberg & Thorsen
Sir Robert McAlpine
|Opened||10 June 2000|
The Millennium Bridge, officially known as the London Millennium Footbridge, is a steel suspension bridge for pedestrians crossing the River Thames in London, England, linking Bankside with the City. It is located between Southwark Bridge (downstream) and Blackfriars Railway Bridge (upstream). The bridge is owned and maintained by the Bridge House Estates, a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation. Construction of the bridge began in 1998, with the opening on 10 June 2000.
Londoners nicknamed the bridge the "Wobbly Bridge" after participants in a charity walk on behalf of Save the Children to open the bridge felt an unexpected and, for some, uncomfortable swaying motion on the first two days after the bridge opened. The bridge was closed later that day, and after two days of limited access the bridge was closed for almost two years while modifications were made to eliminate the wobble entirely. It was reopened in 2002.
The southern end of the bridge is near the Globe Theatre, the Bankside Gallery and Tate Modern, the north end next to the City of London School below St Paul's Cathedral. The bridge alignment is such that a clear view of St Paul's South façade is presented from across the river, framed by the bridge supports.
The design of the bridge was the subject of a competition organized in 1996 by Southwark council and RIBA Competitions. The winning entry was an innovative "blade of light" effort from Arup, Foster and Partners and Sir Anthony Caro. Due to height restrictions, and to improve the view, the bridge's suspension design had the supporting cables below the deck level, giving a very shallow profile. The bridge has two river piers and is made of three main sections of 81 metres (266 ft), 144 metres (472 ft) and 108 metres (354 ft) (North to South) with a total structure length of 325 metres (1,066 ft); the aluminium deck is 4 metres (13 ft) wide. The eight suspension cables are tensioned to pull with a force of 2,000 tons against the piers set into each bank — enough to support a working load of 5,000 people on the bridge at one time.
Ordinarily bridges across the River Thames require an Act of Parliament. For this bridge that was avoided by the Port of London Authority granting a licence for the structure and the obtaining of planning permissions from the City of London and London Borough of Southwark. Construction began in late 1998 and the main works were started on 28 April 1999 by Monberg & Thorsen and Sir Robert McAlpine. The bridge was completed at a cost of £18.2M (£2.2M over budget), primarily paid for by the Millennium Commission and the London Bridge Trust. It opened on 10 June 2000 (two months late).
Unexpected lateral vibration (resonant structural response) caused the bridge to be closed on 12 June 2000 for modifications. Attempts were made to limit the number of people crossing the bridge. This led to long queues but dampened neither public enthusiasm for what was something of a white-knuckle ride, nor the vibrations themselves. The closure of the bridge only two days after opening attracted public criticism of it as another high-profile British Millennium project suffered an embarrassing setback, akin to how many saw the Millennium Dome. The wobble was attributed to an under-researched phenomenon whereby pedestrians crossing a bridge that has a lateral sway have an unconscious tendency to match their footsteps to the sway, thereby exacerbating the sway. The tendency of a suspension bridge to sway when troops march over it in step was well known, which is why troops are required to break step when crossing such a bridge.
The bridge's movements were caused by a 'positive feedback' phenomenon, known as synchronous lateral excitation. The natural sway motion of people walking caused small sideways oscillations in the bridge, which in turn caused people on the bridge to sway in step, increasing the amplitude of the bridge oscillations and continually reinforcing the effect. On the day of opening the bridge was crossed by 90,000 people, with up to 2,000 on the bridge at any one time.
Resonant vibrational modes due to vertical loads (such as trains, traffic, pedestrians) and wind loads are well understood in bridge design. In the case of the Millennium Bridge, because the lateral motion caused the pedestrians loading the bridge to directly participate with the bridge, the vibrational modes had not been anticipated by the designers.
The lateral vibration problems of the Millennium Bridge are very unusual, but not entirely unique. Any bridge with lateral frequency modes of less than 1.3 Hz, and sufficiently low mass, could witness the same phenomenon with sufficient pedestrian loading. The greater the number of people, the greater the amplitude of the vibrations. For example, Albert Bridge in London has a sign dating from 1973 warning marching ranks of soldiers to break step while crossing. Other bridges which have seen similar problems are:
- Birmingham NEC Link bridge, with a lateral frequency of 0.7 Hz
- Groves Suspension Bridge, Chester, in 1977 during the Jubilee river regatta
- Auckland Harbour Road Bridge, with a lateral frequency of 0.67 Hz, during a 1975 demonstration
After extensive analysis by the engineers, the problem was fixed by the retrofitting of 37 fluid-viscous dampers (energy dissipating) to control horizontal movement and 52 tuned mass dampers (inertial) to control vertical movement. This took from May 2001 to January 2002 and cost £5M. After a period of testing, the bridge was successfully re-opened on 22 February 2002. The bridge has not been subject to significant vibration since. In spite of the successful fix of the problem, the affectionate "wobbly bridge" epithet remains in common usage among Londoners.
An artistic expression of the higher-frequency resonances within the cables of the bridge were explored by Bill Fontana's 'Harmonic Bridge' exhibition at the Tate Modern museum in mid-2006. This used acoustic transducers placed at strategic locations on the cabling of the Millennium Bridge and the signals from those transducers were amplified and dynamically distributed throughout the Turbine Hall of the Tate by a programme which Fontana entered into the sound diffusion engine of the Richmond Sound Design AudioBox.
In the media 
In the 2009 film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the Millennium Bridge is shown to be destroyed due to an attack by Death Eaters instead of the fictional Brockdale Bridge mentioned in the book.
See also 
- London Millennium Funicular, a very small funicular railway situated in the City of London, immediately to the east of the northern end of the Millennium Bridge
- Angers Bridge
- Brooklyn Bridge—Pedestrian access
- Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge that collapsed in 1940
- Tay Bridge disaster
- Thames Bridges - Neil Davenport
- Where Thames Smooth Waters Glide
- Life: The Observer Magazine - A celebration of 500 years of British Art - 19th March 2000
- BBC news: "High winds cause damage at Lord's" January 18, 2007.
- Strogatz, Steven et al. (2005). "Theoretical mechanics: Crowd synchrony on the Millennium Bridge," Nature, Vol. 438, pp, 43-44.
- Julavitz, Robert. "Point of Collapse," Village Voice. August 26, 2003.
- "All troops must break step on Albert Bridge"
- Dallard, P. et al. "The London Millennium Footbridge," Structural Engineer. November 20, 2001. 79:22, pp.17-35.
- Arup: The Millenium Bridge
- "Millennium Bridge over the River Thames, joining the Tate Modern and St Paul's London - photos, history and background". Urban75.org. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
- Ross Lydall (2009-10-27). "Second wobbly bridge for London - News - London Evening Standard". Thisislondon.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
- The sound sculptures and ideas of Bill Fontana Resoundings
- Reaney, Patricia. (Nov. 6, 2005). "Why the Millennium Bridge wobbled". New Sunday Times, p. F20.
- Strogatz, Steven. (2003). Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order. New York: Hyperion books. 10-ISBN 0-7868-6844-9; 13-ISBN 978-0-7868-6844-5 (cloth) [2nd ed., Hyperion, 2004. 10-ISBN 0-7868-8721-4; 13-ISBN 978-0-7868-8721-7 (paper)]
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: London Millennium Bridge|
- Millennium Bridge at Structurae
- Arup's Millennium Bridge site
- A PDF paper from Arup, discussing the engineering and resonance of the bridge.
- A paper from Taylor Devices Inc on the dampers retrofitted to the bridge
- Information about the GERB TMDs retrofitted to the bridge
- Brooklyn Bridge: lateral S-shaped vibration = pedestrian oscillations or "sway"
- A Cambridge University Engineering Department account of the Millennium Bridge problem. (January 2002)