For Scotland, and for its capital city especially, news that the Forth Bridge has become the sixth Scottish landmark to be awarded Unesco World Heritage Site status is a fantastic boost.
Built in 1890, it has been an icon of Victorian engineering excellence and a symbol of Scottish industrial achievement. Even after 125 years the experience of a rail journey across it has not lost any of its allure, nor its presence any of its awesome grace and power. Now it ranks alongside the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China and the Sydney Opera House in terms of cultural significance.
Its recognition as a World Heritage Site portends a massive boost for the area, one that will require investment and careful planning to take full advantage.
There are certain to be concerns about additional traffic in Queensferry – an area that was never designed for such a large number of cars. Plans for a visitor centre on the north side should excite the attention of traffic managers to undertake logistics up to the most exacting demands – and architects to conceive a structure worthy of its purpose.
At the same time Edinburgh city planners need to ensure an approach that can cope with the additional traffic and interest that this is going to create.
It may be argued that World Heritage Status does not change the Forth Bridge in any meaningful sense. But it is more than just the sixth Scottish landmark to be added alongside New Lanark, St Kilda, the Old and New Towns in Edinburgh, Neolithic Orkney and the Antonine Wall.
It is in every sense Scotland’s engineering signature on the face of the world. The verdict of the Unesco inspection report well testifies to its allure for Scots and will undoubtedly strengthen interest among overseas visitors. This enormous structure, with its distinctive industrial aesthetic and striking red colour, was conceived and built using advanced civil engineering design principles and construction methods.
Innovative in design, materials and scale, the Forth Bridge is an extraordinary and impressive milestone in bridge design and construction during the period when railways came to dominate long-distance land travel.”
Now our planners and tourist agencies must take full advantage of the visitor challenge.