‘Its beauty is ob­vi­ous – the jour­ney bor­ders on the hum­drum’

The Scotsman - - News Digest - Com­ment Scott Reid

As a Fife res­i­dent who tra­verses the Forth twice daily on my com­mutes to and from the cap­i­tal, I had been count­ing down the days to the Queens­ferry Cross­ing’s open­ing.

See­ing the struc­ture take shape bit by achingly slow bit from the road deck of its younger neigh­bour, yes­ter­day’s launch couldn’t come soon enough.

Pre­dictably, the pre­open­ing hype re­sulted in a tad more bridge-bound traf­fic than would be typ­i­cal at 8am on a Wed­nes­day morn­ing. In the end, it took the best part of an hour to travel just a few miles from a hous­ing es­tate on the east­ern fringes of Dun­fermline to the shiny new link – a jour­ney that would nor­mally take about 15 min­utes.

It was a back­side-numb­ing crawl that would have been worth it had the end re­sult been less of an an­ti­cli­max.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s an im­pres­sive, in­deed world-record-break­ing, feat of civil engi­neer­ing that as a na­tion we should be proud of. Its scale, del­i­cacy and beauty is ob­vi­ous to any on­looker – but I’m afraid that the 1.7-mile jour­ney across its smoothly tar­ma­cked su­per­struc­ture bor­ders on the hum­drum.

The Forth Road Bridge of­fered a real sense of drama with its spec­tac­u­lar views of the his­toric rail bridge on a south-bound run, its dis­tinc­tive rollercoaster-like hump on the cen­tral span, the ver­tig­i­nous scale of its steel lat­tice tow­ers as you passed be­neath them, and its odd un­du­la­tion.

In com­par­i­son, its 21st cen­tury re­place­ment just feels like a big mo­tor­way fly­over – an ef­fect that is sure to be ac­cen­tu­ated when the speed limit is raised to 70mph. The re­stricted views are also likely to worsen as those fancy wind de­flec­tors weather.

And I can’t be the only one mourn­ing the loss of the re­as­sur­ing “thump thump” as­so­ci­ated with the old bridge’s ex­pan­sion joints.

Where the 53-year-old FRB seemed to live and breathe, from a driver and bridge lover’s per­spec­tive I’m afraid to say the Queens­ferry Cross­ing is bor­der­ing on the merely func­tional. But maybe that’s just the point.

On the flip side, yes­ter­day’s rush-hour break­down in­volv­ing a lorry showed the merit of hav­ing a hard shoul­der on the new cross­ing, while my fi­nal few miles into Ed­in­burgh from the Scot­stoun junc­tion along Queens­ferry Road to Or­chard Brae was a traf­fic-free breeze. Here’s hop­ing that con­tin­ues.

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