Examining the Impact of the London Tower Bridge Closure

Uber Movement Team
Mar 15, 2018 · 3 min read

This post is the second in a series using Uber Movement to measure the impact of critical urban infrastructure closures. Uber Movement provides free and public access to travel times data averaged and aggregated by boundaries used by urban planners.

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In late 2016, London’s Tower Bridge was closed for three months to undergo critical maintenance. The iconic 120-year-old Victorian landmark hadn’t undergone refurbishment since 1970, and there was a clear need to repair and upgrade the bridge.

From 1 October to 30 December 2016, the bridge was closed to over 21,000 vehicles that use the bridge daily. In this post, we use data from Uber Movement to visualise and approximate the impact the Tower Bridge closure had on travel times throughout London.

A before & after look at London travel times

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Explore the Data in Uber Movement / Map tiles © Mapbox

In this visualisation, we’re comparing PM peak travel times during the first month of the Tower Bridge closure (October) to PM peak periods from the previous month (September). Travel times are broken out by Middle Super Output Areas (MSOAs), a geographical boundary frequently used throughout England and Wales for statistical analysis. Dark red indicates an increase in travel times following the Tower Bridge closure; inversely, green indicates a decrease in travel times from the selected origin. In this instance we’re looking at travel times starting from the north of the City of London, in Spitalfields.

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Explore the Data in Uber Movement / Map tiles © Mapbox

The closure had an especially significant impact on travel times immediately across the Tower Bridge from either direction.

Here, you can see a ~65% increase in southbound travel times, and ~30% increase in northbound travel times between two MSOAs on either side of the River Thames.

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Explore the Data in Uber Movement

When broken down by day of week or time of day, travel times following the closure remained proportionally consistent, with Friday and PM peak period travel times slightly more impacted than other periods.

Interestingly, the closure also corresponded with a noticeable shift in travel times throughout all of London. Around 3–5% shorter travel times are clearly visible in most areas to the west of the Tower Bridge, whereas times in eastern London north of the River Thames are noticeably higher: in some areas, upwards of 10%. This is likely due to the lack of alternative river crossings in east London. During the closure, commuters were diverted to the Southwark Bridge southbound, and London Bridge northbound, both of which are west of the Tower Bridge.

The data clearly shows the cascading effects of the closure on London’s entire transportation grid. Further investigation into those effects can help inform future decisions needed to effectively manage and plan for road and infrastructure closures.

Want to see how the closure impacted London in more detail? Explore and download the data for free, through Uber Movement.

Have a question or research you’re interested in pursuing with this data? Contact us at movement-research@uber.com — we would love to hear from you!

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