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Swaying Millennium Bridge to close after two days

Central London’s swaying £18.2m Millennium Bridge is to close just two days after it opened to the public, its builders announced today.

The 320m-long Thames crossing, which links St Paul’s Cathedral in the City with the Tate Modern gallery in Southwark, will close from 10pm tonight. It could be shut for weeks.

The suspension bridge swayed alarmingly under the weight of thousands of people at its official opening on Saturday. Tonight, the Millennium Bridge Trust, which organised its building, said the bridge would close to allow engineers to continue their investigation “into the cause of excessive movement of the bridge in certain conditions and to carry out work to correct the problem”.

It is understood that the closure of the pedestrians-only bridge could last for weeks. Its closure will be a huge disappointment to Londoners and to the tens of thousands of tourists heading for the capital this summer. Designed by the highly-acclaimed Foster and Partners, the bridge was inaugurated by the Queen last month.

The company said the bridge was intended to have some movement, but those crossing it this weekend spoke of considerable sway.

The first new river crossing in central London since Tower Bridge opened in 1894, the bridge was officially opened to the public on Saturday by the former model Heather Mills, who led schoolchildren on a sponsored walk.

The large number of people on the bridge – 160,000 visited over the weekend – exposed a fault on the structure. It closed for 10 minutes on Saturday because of excessive swaying and stewards have limited the numbers allowed on it since.

A team from the bridge’s engineers, Arup, were inspecting the bridge today in an attempt to locate the problem. The bridge remained open to pedestrians but the trust said it would close at 10pm. David Bell, chairman of the trust, apologised to people who might have felt discomfort or “unease” crossing the bridge on Saturday. “The current problem, which involves excessive movement on the bridge in certain conditions, is something that we will overcome,” he said.

Millennium projects appear jinxed. The £758m Millennium Dome has endured a cash and visitor crisis which has led to the ousting of both its chairman and chief executive. And the opening of the Millennium Wheel, officially known as the British Airways London Eye, was postponed after a problem with the passenger pods.