Network Rail is progressing plans to take visitors onto the bridge for the first time, focussing on delivery of a ‘bridge climb’ experience in South Queensferry.
The exhilarating plans are expected to attract 80,000 visitors a year to climb the 127 year old structure.
Access will be provided via an existing walkway under the south approach span and a new steel walkway positioned discreetly within the top member of the southern suspended span. Visitors will be pulsed in groups of up to 15 from a new hub building near Hawes Brae and will be hooked on to the bridge using a harness and continuous safety line.
The plans are a revised version of proposals first developed in 2013. The original plans had included a visitor centre and viewing platform in North Queensferry as well as a facility at the southern side.
Funding considerations have encouraged initially taking forward a leaner, more focussed bridge walk project with the potential to develop the business further in the future.
David Dickson, Network Rail’s Infrastructure Director as part of the ScotRail Alliance, said:
“We have explored numerous options over the last two years to take forward our visitor proposals, however, after reviewing the business case we have chosen to focus, at least initially, on the bridge walk option. This requires a lower up front capital investment and offers a quicker rate of return.
“Importantly, the bridge walk hub will be located just 250metres from Dalmeny station. While we will have sufficient parking on site to meet customer needs, we want to encourage visitors to enjoy the convenience of access by rail and will be looking to incentivise that within our management of the facility.”
A public consultation on the proposed development is expected to begin in summer 2017. Planning permission will be sought following the conclusion of the consultation. Listed building consent will be required as well as close consultation with heritage experts in order to satisfy world heritage officials.
Mr Dickson continued:
“The Forth Bridge is one of Scotland’s most loved structures and our plans reflect that. The access gantry we are proposing will be almost invisible from the shore and fully reversible should we wish to remove it in the future. What we must not forget is that the Forth Bridge is a working structure which has always required maintenance and that will continue. What we’re proposing will simply allow us to invite visitors to learn about the history and wonder of a structure that, in the past, has only ever been accessible by a lucky few railway workers.
“We take our role as the stewards of the Forth Bridge extremely seriously. We believe that this proposal will help people appreciate this wonder of the industrial age and help spark a renewed worldwide interest in the history and heritage of Scottish engineering.”
The bridge walk is expected to be operated under a management contract on behalf of Network Rail. The costs of developing that walkway, building and access construction are estimated at £10m.
To access the bridge by foot, we intend to extend an existing walkway which runs underneath the track and around the southern masonry tower.
Cam2: The galvanised steel catwalk which is fitted to the eastern face of the masonry tower will be extended, with an added staircase.
Cam3: Alternative view of the extended walkway.
Cam 4: The walkway on the bridge will be discreetly fitted within the upper cantilever truss. All fittings will be fully reversible.
Cam16: The walkway is designed to be almost invisible from the shore. This view of the east face of the bridge demonstrates the low impact design.
Cam40: After the climb, visitors will be rewarded with the magnificent views from our discreet, purpose built viewing platform.
Cam41: Visitors will return to the South Queensferry hub down the walkway on the opposite truss, ensuring groups can be pulsed every 10-15minutes onto the structure.
The South Queensferry Hub:
The hub for bridge walks will be based on Network Rail property overlooking Hawes Brae in South Queensferry. The functional building will be designed specifically to process groups of visitors onto the bridge. The design will be attractive but practical, with the aim of delivering an exceptional visitor experience.
Cycle Path View (looking east): The hub building is located adjacent to Ferry Glen cycle path which links directly to Nation Cycle Route 1.
Jacobs Ladder View (looking south): Our proposal will see access route to our facility improved, including the staircase route to and from Hawes Pier.
South Quensferry Arrival (looking west): Although we intend to incentivise rail travel to our facility, we will have sufficient parking provision on site to accommodate all our visitors.
SQ Station path (looking north): Our hub is just 250 metres from Dalmeny Station. We intend to improve the walking access from the station to encourage as many visitors as possible to use the train.