Questions and Answers


What is the Illuminated River Foundation and how is it funded?

The Illuminated River Foundation is an independent charity set up to lead and fundraise for the project to light up to 15 of central London’s bridges. Apart from an initial investment and start-up from the Olympic Reserve towards the costs of the initial competition of £250,000, it is funded through philanthropic sources. The Illuminated River Foundation will continue to seek the balance from private sources rather than the public purse. All public funding received to date by the Foundation will be offset by a legacy of resources for the Greater London Authority, London Boroughs, and the emergency services to use in their work.

Whose idea is this and why is it important?

This is an idea originally conceived by Hannah Rothschild and developed by the Rothschild Foundation in partnership with the Mayor of London. It responds to increased interest and engagement with the river over recent years and the lack of a cohesive lighting scheme currently.

How much will the project cost?

The overall project budget equates to an average cost for each bridge of £3m. This includes design, implementation and subsequent maintenance for 10 years to 2029 and VAT costs that are irrecoverable.

How much has been raised so far?

To date generous support has been received: £5 million from Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin through the Arcadia Fund, £5 million from The Rothschild Foundation, £500,000 from the City of London Corporation and a generous, multi-million pound donation from the Blavatnik Family Foundation. Seed funding of £250,000 was also awarded from the Mayor of London’s Office for the initial competition. The Foundation is committed to raise the remainder of the funds for the project from private and philanthropic sources, with no further public funding being sought.

Will funders and sponsors have special access benefits?

None of the bridges will ever be closed for corporate or private events as a result of this project. There will be no naming rights or advertising and the bridges will remain open to all 24 -7.

Can the public donate to the project?

Anyone is welcome to donate to this project.


What is the length of the river between Albert Bridge and Tower Bridge?

The length of the river between those bridges is approximately 4.5 nautical miles.

Why does the initiative only cover up to Albert Bridge? What about Hammersmith and Putney and others?

At this stage, we are focusing on the bridges in central London, but are happy to share learning for any future initiatives.

How long will the installation take?

It is anticipated to be delivered in phases, with the first phase starting in 2019 and a further phase per year up to 2022.


What effect will there be on wildlife?

There has been a comprehensive ecological assessment as to the short- and long-term ecological impacts of the proposal, not just from the aquatic side of the scheme but also the terrestrial and aerial aspects. These surveys are highly detailed and exhaustive.

We aim to have a positive effect by reducing the amount of direct light into the river from current lighting schemes on the bridges. This direct light can be harmful to fish populations. We will also ensure that bat and bird habitats are respected and create a new, comprehensive database of the location of bat and bird colonies in the area, which currently doesn't exist. In order to achieve this we are working closely with the London Wildlife Trust and the Zoological Society of London.

Will the scheme use more energy than the current lighting on each bridge?

By replacing inefficient metal halides and fluorescents with the latest LEDs we aim to reduce energy-consumption by up to 50% on some of the major bridges.

Will you be making the foreshore brighter at night?

No – the Illuminated River proposal will not illuminate more of the Thames as we intend to reduce the amount of existing lighting on some of the bridges. We will certainly avoid illuminating the very sensitive foreshore which we know is a very important habitat for benthic invertebrates amongst others.

Will there be a robust bat roost and impact survey? Will the light spectrum used be bat-friendly?

The London Wildlife Trust and Thomson Ecology have coordinated and undertaken bat and bird surveys of all the bridges and the surrounding habitats so that we can ensure we don’t have an impact on either feeding or roosting behaviour. We are adding the results of these surveys to the website. We also worked with local community group members who joined the project ecologists on bat and bird walks to learn more about local wildlife.

Is it right to be launching a project that might consume additional energy for lighting in London, when everyone is trying to reduce consumption of energy?

One of the aims of this project is to provide the opportunity to replace outdated, high energy-consumption lighting such as fluorescents and metal halides with far more efficient and discreet LEDs with the latest technology, which uses significantly less energy and is less costly to maintain.

Are there physical engineering interventions which might affect the wildlife?

We are only removing and replacing old and inefficient lighting kit from the bridges and therefore will not be piling or creating any invasive physical construction or excavations in the river or around the bridges.


What will be done in terms of the existing navigational and safety lighting along this part of the Thames?

We are working very closely with the Port of London Authority (PLA) and will not interfere with the navigation lighting of the Thames which is essential for the safety of Thames river traffic. The scheme will be mindful not to cause confusion or dazzle the traffic in any way.

Have you sought the advice and opinion of the PLA and other navigation management agencies or river traffic representatives?

Yes we have worked with the PLA from the outset – they commented on the shortlisted schemes and are active members of the Project Advisory Group.

Will the bridges need to be closed for this work? If so for how long?

We do not anticipate major disruption for this work as much of the installation will take place under the bridges and will only need abseiling access. We are in close touch with the bridge owners to plan the execution carefully and to make use of any maintenance and upgrading plans.

Some of the bridges are listed. What impact does that have on the scheme?

We have the support of Historic England and have gained 18 listed building consents. We will work closely with them to respect the historic fabric and character of each bridge, and to ensure that the scheme has no adverse visual or physical impacts. The artwork will subtly enhance and reveal the architectural qualities of the bridges but we are also looking at ways that we can remove redundant existing fittings on the listed bridges identified in recent surveys.

Will the lighting cables and fixings be visible on the bridges during the day?

We have carried out detailed measured surveys and site visits to help us understand how best to minimise the visual impact of our installation. Historic England is engaged with the project and we will consult with them to ensure that the architecture of these structures is not compromised. Many of the bridges already have lighting infrastructure that is dated, and the new technology will to be more discreet than that currently in place.


How will this benefit Londoners?

The project will provide a major new, free public art installation to be enjoyed by Londoners, commuters and visitors alike. We hope it will encourage people to come into London to visit its many attractions in the centre of town at night. The project will enhance the simple pleasure of strolling over or alongside the bridges at night time and enjoying the spectacle from the river itself. We also aim to be a catalyst for public space improvements to make some of the surrounding riverside areas more attractive and accessible.

How much more or less will it cost to implement this lighting scheme than those currently on the bridges?

The running costs will be lower than they are currently, given the progress in lighting technology, and the plan is to replace inefficient and environmentally unfriendly lighting such as florescent and metal halides that still exist on some bridges.


How much research have you done to see if this is something that the London public will welcome?

The project has been developed in consultation and collaboration with public bodies responsible for the bridges and the river and has been designed to support and play a part in the TfL’s River Action Plan and the Port of London Authority’s Thames Vision. We have been working closely with partners such as local councils, the Mayor of London and cultural bodies such as Totally Thames to make sure the project makes a positive contribution to the life of the river and its communities.

Throughout the process, engagement with the public has been of prime importance. We have conducted thorough online consultation, held a public exhibition of the six shortlisted schemes at the Royal Festival Hall, and worked on a special project with schools. We have met with over fifty groups and organisations local to the river and held meetings in community centres along the Thames and we have spoken to a broad range of people, from residents and commuters, to walking groups, mudlarkers and watermen. We have also held a series of on-site ‘perception audits’ with members of the public so that we can understand, respond to and improve their experiences of the bridges and surrounding areas.

Will there be a public consultation and engagement process?

Yes, as this is a very important part of the development of the project and a process of consultation is underway. This will include a series of exhibitions, online surveys, talks, walks and events. If you would like to be kept up to date regarding events please register to receive updates.

Other Projects

Have you considered the potential implications and impacts of the Thames Tideway Tunnel?

Yes, we are working closely with Tideway and proceeding from east to west to avoid any conflict with their construction plans. We are sharing data and looking at ways their new public spaces planned by some of key bridges can work in harmony with this project.

We will continue to add further questions and answers to this section of the website over the course of the project.

If you have any further questions about the Illuminated River Project, please get in touch.

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