Flying high to clean Tower Bridge’s famous glass walkways

Night owls passing by Tower Bridge have been met with an unusual sight as the iconic landmark was subjected to some extreme window cleaning’.

An abseiling worker cleans the underside of the glass floors at Tower Bridge
  • Published: 25 April 2024

Specialist sub-contractors working for bridge owner City Bridge Foundation abseiled from the structure’s twin high-level walkways to clean the underside of their glass floors.

It’s the first time the exposed underside of the floors has been cleaned since the spectacular feature, which provides an essential photo opportunity for visitors brave enough to tread on it, was installed a decade ago.

The work was carried out in the early hours of Wednesday morning, during the bridge’s latest series of quarterly overnight closures for maintenance.

Giles Shilson, City Bridge Foundation chairman, said: Like any windows subject to London’s weather, the glass floors need an occasional scrub to keep them spick and span.

The only practical and safe way to do the job was to call in a specialist firm experienced in working at height and in hard-to-reach spaces.

The work made for a spectacular sight for anyone who happened to be passing the bridge in the early hours of the morning.”

The job was carried out by Essex-based rope access specialist LDT Contractors, working for City Bridge Foundation’s contractor, FM Conway.

They performed a professional clean of the glass and surrounding metalwork using high-pressure water jets, specialised cleaning solutions, finishing cloths and a liberal amount of elbow grease.

The firm’s crew hauled up a specialist access platform to provide extra support and stability as they carried out their work, suspended 42m above the dark and icy waters of the River Thames.

Abseiling workers suspended from the underside of the high-level walkways at Tower Bridge cleaning the glass floors

Luke Tilbury, managing director of LDT Contractors, said: Tower Bridge has been a really interesting project to work on. It’s quite an intricate space to get up to and there was a lot of work that we put into the project in advance, including a trial run at our unit, so that on the night it all ran like a well-oiled machine.

It’s been a huge privilege to work on such an iconic landmark and to be the first company to get up there to clean the underside of the glass floor, is a great honour. We are already looking forward to the next clean.”

The glass floors are comprised of six layers, the uppermost of which, scuffed by hundreds of thousands of footsteps every year, is regularly replaced to ensure a good view. They can hold the weight of four black cabs or six elephants.

Tower Bridge is one of five crossings owned and maintained by City Bridge Foundation – a 900-year-old charity – at no cost to the taxpayer.

The bridge is closed to traffic and pedestrians overnight every night this week from 10pm to 5am, reopening as usual from Sunday morning.

Night workers walking along the bridge deck at Tower Bridge