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Shaun Naidoo, Tower Bridge controller
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a Tower Bridge controller

By Time Out London contributor
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…according to Shaun Naidoo, 39.

Boats have priority over cars in London

‘It’s an act of Parliament that river traffic has right of way, and we still maintain that, barring emergencies. As long as we’re given 24 hours’ notice, we have to be able to raise Tower Bridge 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.’

Unexpected things happen in the depths of the bridge

‘Two weeks ago we had concerts in our bascule chambers, which are large hollow areas under the bridge. People were meditating and they had a smoke machine, LED lights and lasers. We’ve had opera down there, spoken word… it’s always exciting, even if it isn’t my cup of tea.’

Celebrities can’t get enough of London’s most famous river crossing

David Bowie came for a private visit. I showed Jeremy Paxman the bascule chambers. Tom Cruise just turned up one day: he wanted a private visit, but the lads in my team sneaked in to the ticket office just to get a glimpse of him.’

It takes a year to learn to raise it

‘I’m one of six people qualified to open Tower Bridge. To become a bridge driver, I had a year of training. Most of it was what to do if something goes wrong, but we hardly ever have any issues. Although one of the first times I raised the bridge on my own, I had to deal with a protest sitting down in the middle. That was a baptism of fire.’

Working at a landmark gives you major bragging rights

‘It is a nice job. In any conversation you say that you work here and it kind of beats everything else – like: Oh, you work on an industrial estate in Hertfordshire? I open Tower Bridge.’

Interview by Emily Bright.

Tower Bridge is taking part in Engineering Open House Day, hosted by the Institute of Engineering and Technology on Friday July 28.

Now find out the things you only know if you keep Big Ben ticking

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