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Rob Greig

Quit your job, become a... bridge operator

Danielle Goldstein

David Wilson, 43, technical officer at Tower Bridge, City of London Corporation

Apart from raising and lowering the bridge, what else do you do?

‘My team is responsible for the maintenance and operation of Tower Bridge – all the parts that make it open and close – but also of the exhibition. So even if it’s a blocked toilet, we’ll deal with it.’

Are you often unbunging bogs?

‘There is no average day. Generally we do a pre-planned maintenance routine, which could mean fixing lifts, doing inspections or re-greasing the nose bolts that hold the centre of the bridge together. Re-greasing involves raising half the bridge, standing on the edge to inspect it, then lowering it, stepping over and lifting the other half.’

So a fear of heights is a no-no?

‘You’ve got to have a good head for heights because we go down the side of the piers, underneath the actual bridge and up on the walkways, which have glass floors.’

How did you end up being Tower Bridge's maintenance man?

‘I did an apprenticeship at a bus company in Cumbria before I joined the Royal Navy as a marine engineer. Then I went into the steel industry as a mechanical fitter. I’ve only been here seven months.’

Have you made any rookie mistakes?

‘No, but I still have the fear of not raising the bridge in time so a boat crashes into it.’

Is it difficult to raise the bridge?

‘It’s just a matter of pulling back on a joystick to the desired angle. The only time we do a full bridge lift is if the Queen is coming through. Regardless of what kind of boat she’s on – it could be a great big liner or a rowing boat – if the Queen goes through, we’ll do a full lift.’

Is opening the bridge the best part of your job?

‘Without a doubt. Seeing people’s reactions – how awe-inspiring it is for them – and being responsible for it, I do love it. There are only six of us in the world who are qualified to raise the bridge, so to be part of that gives you a sense of satisfaction.’ 

Hours: 40hrsp/w

Salary: £32k p/a 

Qualifications: Engineering or electrical City & Guilds course

Or why not become a lion keeper?


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