Tower Bridge is well-known for being one of London’s most visually appealing structures, thanks to its Neo-Gothic architectural style and functional sections. It was recognized as the most sophisticated bascule bridge in the world when it first opened. But did you know that a double-decker bus jumped over Tower Bridge?
In 1952, Albert Gunter, a bus driver was crossing over Tower Bridge when it began to open. When the double-decker bus began to rise, it was at the edge of the south bascule. He made a split decision and accelerated clearing the 6-foot drop.
What were the Events That Led to the Bus Jumping Over Tower Bridge?
Tower Bridge has witnessed a number of daring feats during its 125-year history. On December 30, 1952, Albert Gunter was happily going about his day job. He was driving the number 78 bus over Tower Bridge and was heading towards Shoreditch. While en route, the road in front of him seemed to disappear.
It was at that point that Gunter quickly realized that the Bridge was about to open and that his bus was on a rising bascule. Back in the 1950s, a watchman was supposed to ring a warning bell and close the gates before Tower Bridge opened. But for some reason, the watchman in charge forgot to do so on that particular day which could have been a terrible accident if Gunter was not thinking on his feet.
Gunter managed to jump the rising bascule by slamming his foot down on the accelerator. He successfully reached the north side of Tower Bridge, which had not yet begun to open, and safely transported all 20 of his passengers across by virtually jumping across.
As a precaution, everyone on board was taken to the hospital for a quick assessment. Fortunately, only one person has hurt, Gunter broke his leg in the incident. Surprisingly, the bus, traveling at only 12 mph was completely fine.
For his bravery and quick thinking, Gunter was given a day off work and a monetary reward of £10 which is approximately £290 in today’s money. (Source: Tower Bridge)
Why Does Tower Bridge Open That Way?
The majority of boats on this stretch of the River Thames today are tourist boats. However, this was not always the case. Back then, ships traveling on the River Thames carried other vital cargoes and passed through Tower Bridge was erected in 1894.
On this stretch of the Thames, river traffic has always had priority, and it was a requirement of Tower Bridge’s design that it not block the said traffic on this stretch. Visitors of Tower Bridge frequently inquire whether boats must pay to open it. Since 1894, the cost of opening Tower Bridge has remained the same: it is entirely free. (Source: Tower Bridge)
How Frequently Does the Tower Bridge Open?
Tower Bridge opens its bascules approximately 800 times per year or about twice per day. The staff at Tower Bridge are often on the lookout for vessels ready to pass through 24 hours a day, and the bascules are opened as soon as the road is clear.
However, their protocol has changed on January 1, 1971. Ships were required to book a Bridge lift at least 24 hours in advance, and all requests were required to be submitted in writing. (Source: Tower Bridge)