A leading bridge engineer has described this week’s closure of the £18m Millennium Bridge as a tragedy for the profession.
Techniker director Matthew Wells said the reputation of British engineers would be hit by the excessive swaying that led to the bridge being closed on Monday.
Wells, who also appeared on Newsnight this week, told Building: “It’s a tragedy for the consulting profession. That they should get to this situation and have only found out now is terrible.
“British engineering is supposed to count for something abroad. It’s a bit of a body blow for the industry.”
The crossing, designed by Foster and Partners and Ove Arup & Partners, looks set to be closed for the summer as measures to prevent the swaying are put in place.
Engineer Ove Arup is expected to control the bridge’s movement by installing mass dampers, or shock absorbers. It is predicted that the installation would take about two months, following a period of testing over the next few weeks. The cost of the dampers is estimated at £250 000.
Commenting on the closure, insiders at Ove Arup said the project team was devastated. One said: “Both ourselves and independent advisers did tests on the bridge and found that dampers were not needed. Obviously, we didn’t think it would move that much.”
The bridge was closed on Monday night at the request of the Millennium Bridge Trust. A spokeswoman for the trust denied that it was because of safety concerns. She said: “It’s not going to fall down. If it had been a question of safety, we wouldn’t have anyone on it in the first place.”
Engineers have suggested a number of reasons for the movement, including aerodynamic problems with the design and the wind tunnel effect created by surrounding buildings.
Architect Lord Foster, who at first denied responsibility for the problems, later said in a statement that everyone was working together to find a solution.