When I say invited, a few months ago there were adverts in the Press, inviting applications from the public to walk across the new bridge when it was opened, before the traffic started. Some one-third of a million applications were received, and a ballot reduced this to 50,000 attendees, divided into the two open days, 2nd and 3rd September. We were lucky enough to be allocated places on the 3rd, so we went along this morning. The security arrangements were impressive - passports and photo-ID were needed, and all applications were carefully vetted. Limitations were placed on what you could carry, and all bags and possessions were checked. Our plan of action was
(1) Early morning train from North Berwick to Edinburgh Waverley, then take the Stirling train as far as Edinburgh Park (only two stops, in fact).
(2) From this station - out in the suburban world of banking head offices [boo!] - it was about 10 minutes walk to our official bussing point.
(3) Through all the security and registration procedures, and then onto a brand new bus (no expense spared) and a 25 minute run to the southern end of the new bridge, near the town of South Queensferry.
We then were free to join the crowds walking over the new bridge. A marvellous experience - we were very lucky with the weather, too. There were people in fancy dress, raising money for charity, folk in wheelchairs - many thousands of visitors - a great day out for all. The numbers are bewildering - the bridge is 1.7 miles in length, and it cost some £1.35bn - there are also endless statistics about how much concrete was required, how many people worked on it, how much traffic it will carry, and so on and so on - if you are interested, please check online - there's tons of the stuff (I won't tell you how much...). We took about an hour to walk across - taking our time and capturing a great many photos - and then were taken by bus back to Edinburgh Park, from whence we started our train trip home.
Excellent. Also it was free to the participants, and this is really quite a production - I guess that a portion of the project budget is set aside to ensure that the taxpayers are happy with the thing.
What was it like? Well, it was great, but a little odd. I have to say that I was surprised that there was not a great sense of being on a big bridge over an arm of the sea. If this seems a strange thing to say, it is probably a testament to the skill of the design. The superstructure is only in evidence if you look up (and it is most certainly very much in evidence then!), and the transparent windbreak panels cut down on both the view and the breeze, so the overall impression is of being on a straight piece of modern roadway.
I've reproduced a selection of our photos, and have added some borrowed from the media, to give a better context, and a better idea of what the thing is like - when you are on it, there is surprisingly little to see of it!
|Strangely foreshortened zoom-lens shot from the Guardian, rather hides the fact |
that the new structure is 1.7 miles long!
|Windbreaks - West Lothian coastline in the background|
At the end of our trip, I am now fired up to walk across the old Road Bridge, a thing which I could have done at any time in the last 50 years - it should be a rather better spectacle, and will definitely give better views of the Queensferry Crossing.
My compliments to the heroes who built this thing, and to the Scottish Parliament for arranging the open day. It will take me a little while to appreciate what I saw today, I think. It will certainly be nicer to drive across than its bumpy old uncle next door.