Queensferry Crossing opens to traffic

There's a new wonder on the horizon. Picture: Greg Macvean
There's a new wonder on the horizon. Picture: Greg Macvean

Move over Burj-Al-Arab, the Golden Gate Bridge and CN Tower – there’s a new man-made head-turner on the scene.

The Queensferry Crossing, a £1.35 billion replacement for the Forth Road Bridge, opened to the public this week.

At 1.7 miles, it is the world’s longest triple-tower cable-stayed bridge and the biggest infrastructure project in Scotland for a generation.

More than 12,000 workers have been involved in its creation, tallying up more than 18 million man hours in the decade it has taken to build it.

And it stands proudly beside its two fellow structural wonders, completing a snapshot of three centuries of bridge-building innovation in one estuary.

But what will this latest feat of modern engineering mean to Scotland and its people?

One man who knows its real value is civil engineer Dr Mike Glover OBE, technical director for the Queensferry Crossing project.

His CV includes heading up the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and designing St Pancras railway station.

“These large projects change people’s lives,” said Dr Glover.

“With the Channel Tunnel, in terms of the sheer scale of further developments that happened as a result of it, the speed with which commuter traffic moved more freely, it just liberated people.

“It also converted areas that were actually quite deprived into ones which were prosperous and it was all because of the project.

“Big infrastructure does really change communities for the better.

“This bridge is not just a crossing over the Forth, it represents an opportunity for people to build on.

“But that’s the aspect that is always under-valued because it’s so difficult to quantify.

“We will be facing up to that particular challenge and intend to demonstrate that improvement.”

The Queensferry Crossing will carry the M90 motorway across the Firth of Forth, serving 24 million vehicles every year.

That will free up the Forth Road Bridge (FRB), allowing it to become a public transport corridor later this year.

But if the experts are to be believed, the experience of using the new bridge will be different to that of the FRB.

As well as a smoother ride for drivers due to the solid, continuous road surface, the crossing’s lanes are wider and come complete with hard shoulder while the entire crossing is monitored with an intelligenct transport system.

Delays and closures will be reduced thanks to the Queensferry Crossing being more resilient and easier to maintain than its predecessor.

“We designed the bridge for maintenance,” added Dr Glover.

“Maintenance is not an add on, you have got to build it into the design.

“That was not necessarily the case when the FRB was constructed when there was a much greater faith in the durability of materials. That was the standard of the day.

“Now our standards are much, much higher in terms of maintenance.”

Characteristics of the new bridge include concrete decking, a built-in de-humidification system and the ease with which each of the 288 cables can be removed, tested or replaced without disrupting traffic.

Dr Glover said: “This bridge was designed to have a life of 120 years, but it’s going to have a much longer one than that.”

Clever weather-proofing measures also mean the new crossing will remain open at significantly higher wind speeds than the current bridge.

It is fitted with 3.5 metre-high wind barriers which, because of their shape, scoop much of the wind up and over the bridge. The shields also control the wind, reducing its turbulence and protecting vehicles from gale-force winds.

Dr Glover said: “To be candid, if you can get to the bridge, you will cross it.”

Allan Platt, construction director, said: “Wind barriers have not been done to this extent in the UK before.

“We also have 100,000 square metres of water-proofing on the bridge. If water gets through the road surface, it won’t get through the concrete.

“This bridge represents an icon on people’s doorsteps.

“It provides connectivitiy, the aesthetics are fantastic, it will probably improve tourism – and it’s been completed in record time.”

This weekend, 50,000 members of the public will walk across the bridge with the family of John Cousin, the worker who died on site last year. They will be among the first to step foot on the new landmark.

The crossing will be officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen on September 4.

Dr Glover added: “The location is absolutely 
unique; there isn’t another place like it.

“Here you have three bridges, each built in a different century using 
the leading technology of 
their day.

“It is something to celebrate and it’s good to be Scottish.”