Work on a £35 million tourist attraction that will give 85,000 people a year the chance to scale the Forth Bridge is on track to start in 2021.
Plans to create a new hub at South Queensferry, which will not only allow people access to the world famous structure but will also let visitors explore its heritage, are said to be progressing well.
The Forth Bridge Experience – which is expected to create more than 40 jobs – will see construction of a bridge walk and reception centre on the south side of the UNESCO World Heritage site, which will be used for preparing those heading out on the bridge walk as well as providing an access point to the structure.
Groups of up to 15 people will put on safety harnesses before being led out onto the bridge’s south cantilever, walking up to a 367-foot-high viewing point at the top using walkways built into the structure.
Between three and four groups an hour will be permitted on the bridge, with each tour expected to last around two-and-a-half hours.
Planning permission for the development of a Forth Bridge Walk Reception Centre at South Queensferry was granted in March, and Network Rail is understood to have whittled the potential list of contractors down to four over the autumn ahead of an imminent decision.
Alan Ross, Network Rail Scotland’s director of engineering and asset management, said the project was a “challenging and exciting” venture to work on.
“The bridge walk experience will offer the public a unique chance to explore this world-famous structure and bring a real economic boost to the local economy,” he said.
“Appointing a main contractor to help us deliver this project will be a major milestone in creating this new attraction.”
Those behind the project hope the Forth Bridge Experience will prove as popular a draw as the world-renowned Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk in Australia.
Efforts to refurbish and repaint part of Forth Bridge starts in earnest
Network Rail has also begun work on a £7.5m project to refurbish and repaint the North Queensferry approach span to the world famous Forth Bridge.
The north approach span, which carries the railway over North Queensferry, will be repainted with the same glass-flake epoxy paint system used to restore the bridge itself during the decade-long, £130m refurbishment programme completed by Network Rail, and main contractor Balfour Beatty, in 2011.
Engineers are encapsulating the approach span in a protective scaffold casing before grit-blasting the layers of old paint off the steelwork to allow inspections to take place.
The metal will then be repaired and repainted, and it is thought the paint system will mean the steel will not need repainted for up to two decades.
Balfour Beatty will also undertake a range of other works as part of the contract – including maintenance and monitoring of the bridge bearings, refurbishment of staff welfare facilities on the structure and refurbishment of the Inchgarvie lighthouse.
The refurbishment works will be completed without disruption to train services.