In­side trans­port

Han­dling de­mand for bridge walk tick­ets could be tricky, writes Alas­tair Dal­ton

The Scotsman - - Perspective -

More people have ap­plied for a chance to walk across the Queens­ferry Cross­ing than the pop­u­la­tion of Aberdeen.

The 226,000 plus re­sponse is per­haps un­sur­pris­ing con­sid­er­ing Scot­land’s big­gest con­struc­tion project for a gen­er­a­tion has taken shape so promi­nently over the past six years.

There is also the “once in a life­time” al­lure, since the bridge will be a mo­tor­way with­out pub­lic walk­ways, so closed to pedes­tri­ans.

In fact, it will have to be spe­cially shut to all traf­fic, days after open­ing, so those 50,000 walk­ers can pound the car­riage­ways on 2-3 Septem­ber.

As one of the few lucky enough to have walked on the bridge, to write about its con­struc­tion in Fe­bru­ary, it prom­ises to be worth the trip.

For a start, there’s the unique new per­spec­tive of look­ing east across to the cross­ing’s older but shorter sis­ter, the Forth road bridge, and the Vic­to­rian Forth Bridge be­yond.

For those who have walked across the road bridge, the Queens­ferry Cross­ing will also be an en­tirely dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause of the very dif­fer­ent de­sign of its deck.

While there is open steel­work be­tween each of the car­riage­ways and walk­ways of the Forth Road Bridge, so you can see straight down to the river below, the new cross­ing has a solid deck all the way across, mak­ing it seem far wider.

This is partly be­cause there will be a hard shoul­der in ad­di­tion to the two lanes in each di­rec­tion, but also as there is no gap in the deck along the cen­tral reser­va­tion. Wind­shield­ing pro­tect­ing the car­riage­ways should keep the bridge open in all but the most ex­treme gusts.

But those cross­ing the bridge are likely to also be struck by its slen­der tow­ers, which they will pass on ei­ther side, rather than the chunky, an­gu­lar tow­ers of its neigh­bour, which the car­riage­ways go through.

With all this in­ter­est, the cross­ing has al­most be­come a vic­tim of its own suc­cess, even two months be­fore it opens.

That keen­ness to join the walks has been most keenly felt among those liv­ing near­est the bridge, with more than half of ap­pli­ca­tions for tick­ets com­ing from post­codes in the vicin­ity.

But be­cause ini­tial de­mand has out­stripped sup­ply by more than four-and-a-half to one, a lot of people will be dis­ap­pointed. Even with the pre­dicted drop-out rate, tens of thou­sands of lo­cals will not get a ticket for pos­si­bly their only chance to walk on “their” bridge.

Many of these will be the same people who, of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edge, have suf­fered years of dis­rup­tion dur­ing the project, from diversions to ex­tra con­struc­tion traf­fic and mud spread across roads. That was un­der­lined by one of­fi­cial saying it was the road­works ei­ther side of the bridge rather than the cross­ing it­self that would be the tricky bit of the project.

The Scot­tish Govern­ment’s Trans­port Scot­land agency is in a dif­fi­cult po­si­tion. After an­nounc­ing two bad-weather de­lays al­ready, keep­ing the bridge closed longer for more walk­ers to cross could put back its full open­ing fur­ther.

How­ever, the Forth road bridge is no longer fall­ing down, so the ur­gency of re­liev­ing it of traf­fic has been re­moved.

There could also be pres­sure once it’s clearer how many lo­cals – and others – won’t get to set foot on Scot­land’s new mar­vel.

An of­fi­cial open­ing cer­e­mony may pro­vide the op­por­tu­nity for some of them to sam­ple the bridge at first hand, but a tough job could lie ahead man­ag­ing ex­pec­ta­tions.

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