Traffic-free bridge could become attraction and film location
The designs, in an unpublished report, demonstrate the bridge’s potential as a future tourist attraction following the opening of the Queensferry Crossing.
The 53-year-old bridge could also be in demand as a dramatic film location now that it is about to lose most of its traffic.
Cars and lorries are due to cross for the last time early next Thursday, when the bridge will close to become a “public transport corridor” by November.
That will see only a few hundred buses and taxis crossing a day compared to the current 80,000 vehicles – enabling increased visitor access for the first time.
The 2013 report included a glass platform at the 150m-high top of the south east tower – the most sheltered from the wind. It would provide all-round views of the Forth, including the Queensferry Crossing and Forth Bridge on either side.
Under the proposals, people would be taken by minibus to the towers from a new visitor centre on the south side of the bridge to rise 90m by glass lifts carrying up to 12 people each.
Consultants CH2MHILL said the platform would “provide visitors with an exhilarating experience”.
However, they advised that making all the floor glass “may prove to be too daunting to visitors when they first arrive at the platform”.
Another option was for a glass platform under the bridge, and a further platform for bungee jumps. A summer-only enclosed “net walk” supported by ropes and chains was a further possibility.
The study concluded all them were technically feasible but it was shelved after Network Rail announced similar plans for a viewing platform on the top of the Forth Bridge.
However, that scheme has also been put on hold and Network Rail is now focusing instead on launching Sydney Harbour Bridge-style climbs on the rail bridge by 2020.
A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “A report was commissioned by the Forth Bridges Forum [which includes tourist and heritage bodies] to look at the potential options for a visitor attraction on the Road Bridge back in 2012.
“The proposals were considered by the forum, but as Network Rail had more advanced plans for a viewing platform, the forum decided not to pursue a similar structure on the Forth Road Bridge.”
A Network Rail spokesman said: “We’re currently working with Transport Scotland to finalise a business case with a view to releasing funding for our visitor proposals.
“Our initial aim is to create a bridge walk from South Queensferry which we aim to open by 2020.
“We’re still keen to deliver a more expansive visitor centre and viewing platform, and have not closed the door on that option, however, the business case for the south side walk is better.
“It requires a lower capital investment and potentially offers a higher rate of return, which would allow us to begin generating revenue quicker. In turn, this could be reinvested into growing the visitor experience and maintaining the structure.”
The bridge is also expected to attract renewed interest from film companies, after several requests had to be turned down because of the disruption to traffic.
These have included a Bollywood production that would have involved hundreds of dancers.
One source said: “The Forth Road Bridge is an American design, so could pass off as another location.
“Not many suspension bridges could be closed for any length of time for film-making, because most have traffic flowing over them.”
Film Edinburgh film manager Rosie Ellison said: “If we start seeing the bridge being written into more scripts that would be terrific.
“It would also be great for a version of The Bridge.”
More immediately, major repairs will go ahead that have been delayed until the Queensferry Crossing opened.
These will be completed by closing one of the carriageways while the bridge’s remaining traffic shares the other.
In the past, such contraflows caused long tailbacks.
First, the roadways will be resurfaced, starting with trials of a new method this month.
Huge expansion joints on the carriageways are due to be replaced for the first time, over eight months from next spring.
That work was put off in 2009 because of the cost and disruption of the £13.7 million project.
Another corrosion check of the bridge’s main cables will also be carried out, over six months from April.
The original inspection in 2004 shocked officials by revealing broken and corroded wires, which was thought to have reduced the bridge’s strength by 10 per cent. That led to the building of the Queensferry Crossing.
Engineers will also make final repairs to the truss end links – part of the support structure under the bridge – whose failure forced its closure for three weeks in 2015.