In the early hours of Saturday morning, slightly earlier than advertised, a whopping great bridge was shifted into place above Shoreditch High Street. It was lifted by a giant yellow crane (Britain's heaviest crane, no less). And, unlike certain airport terminals I could name, the whole thing went like clockwork. Apart from the clock part, that is.
"Work starts at 08:00", said the press release. So I was a little surprised to be walking up Bishopsgate at 07:58 and to see the bridge already nudging the final few inches across the road. Obviously it's TfL's prerogative to slide their bridges whenever they like, and this was never meant to be a spectator sport, but I was disappointed all the same. Maybe I should have stayed at home and watched the whole thing on webcam instead - except that didn't appear to be working either. Ah well. I may have been too late for the horizontal but there was a lot of vertical still to go.
350 tonnes of bow-string bridge hung weightily in mid-air above the road. There must have been nearly 100 orange-jacketed workmen watching proceedings, but only a handful of them were actually doing anything. The crane operator was very busy, of course, and a few guys with guide ropes edging the bridge into the correct alignment above the concrete supports. And high up above the sealed off High Street, on the roof of the TEA building, the TFL webcam operator and friends. For everybody else this appeared to be little more than a good opportunity to stand and stare, along with a few early morning spectators, as the latest chunk of London's transport infrastructure fell oh-so gradually into place. Mustn't rush. Come 2010 this bridge is due to be supporting umpteen trains an hour, so it was important to position it absolutely precisely. Inch by inch. Slowly does it. OK, bored now.
Meanwhile, on the other side of a Victorian brick wall, another pack of workmen were busy laying the foundations for a new Shoreditch station. It'll be built beside the old Braithwaite Viaduct, and marks the point where the old East London line will rise up above ground level to cross the new bridge and continue on existing elevated tracks to Dalston. Oh lucky residents of Dalston who'll soon be able to add Wapping and Penge to the limited list of destinations to which they can travel by train. Nowhere useful, then. But we're assured that this new orbital railway will transform the lives of the Hackney communities through which it passes. Next train in 1.2 million minutes. Might be quicker to walk.