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05 October 2023

London plans floating walkway for tourists

The new walkway will allow views of the city's hidden alleys, wharves and landmarks dating back to medieval times (FILE)

By Reuters

A mile-long floating walkway on London's River Thames is being planned in the heart of the British capital, allowing views of the city's hidden alleys, wharves and landmarks dating back to medieval times.

The pontoon, known as the "London River Park", will connect Blackfriars Bridge, on the western edge of the ancient city, and the Tower of London in the east.

Suspended a few feet above the water on the north bank, the walk will be interspersed with five glass-encased pavilions housing a museum, a cinema, a concert hall and an eco-park amongst other attractions.

Swimming pools are central to drawings of one futuristic-looking enclosure.

The "promenade", to be built in time for the Olympic Games and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012 -- if funding is found -- won the Mayor of London's award for planning excellence last week.

The mayor, Boris Johnson, who has championed the rejuvenation of the river as a transport artery and tourist attraction said it will allow the public to "wander through the meandering backstreets of the ancient city."

A spokeswoman for architects Gensler, who drew up the plans, said the scheme was still at a conceptual stage but that talks are taking place with a number of investors to fund the 25 million pound ($40 million) project.

"The mayor's office is extremely keen to get this off the ground ... we've had support all the way. So it does look very positive," Anna Robinson told Reuters.

The elegant structure allows visitors to hop on and off the walkway via gangways allowing them to explore landmarks, alleys and disused wharves close to the shore.

Many of the cramped cobbled streets, with names like "Stew Lane" and "Broken Wharf" have become difficult to access as the city grew exponentially over the centuries and are way off the usual tourist routes.

The pontoon runs past protected ancient sites like Queenhithe dock, one of the earliest of London's harbours that dates back to Saxon and possibly Roman times.

The walk will also give unique vantages of Old Billingsgate Fish Market, the centre of the city's fish trade in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the Custom House, a site first used by London's Customs service in 1275.

An advantage of the design is that it can be moved and reassembled in another part of the city and the "pods" given new themes to suit different occasions, Robinson said.