PLANS to run boat trips between South and North Queensferry and Edinburgh and the Forth Bridge will be investigated as part of the World Heritage bid for the iconic structure.
Both proposals were cited as ways of improving transport links to the bridge in a 12-week public consultation process run by Historic Scotland.
The agency was seeking views about the potential social, economic and cultural benefits of winning heritage status as it seeks the Unesco award for the landmark span.
Making better use of train and boat services as well as park-and-ride facilities to help with potential congestion and parking problems was a theme across the responses.
Repairing the piers in North Queensferry was cited as an “urgent priority”, with residents hopeful the bid would bring in more funds to develop harbours and waterfronts.
The proposals will be included in a management plan for the bridge to be submitted to Unesco in January.
Historic Scotland said ferry trips had been put forward as a means of reducing potential extra road traffic, including tour buses.
“Although there could be new ferries introduced, one of the major initiatives would be to move people from cruise ships by boat and to take local traffic along the coast by boat rather than only in cross-Forth ferries,” they said. “There could also be round trips [to Edinburgh], partly by boat and rail. The idea of packages comprising different means of transport was suggested.”
Any regular boat trips from the Capital would most likely depart from Leith. Previous estimates have put the sailing time of a high-speed service at less than 30 minutes.
Queensferry & District Community Council secretary Terry Airlie said he was unsure about a boat service from Edinburgh, but described the concept of ferries running from either side of the bridge across the Forth as “entirely possible”.
He said: “I’m sure we can make it viable. It’s certainly something that we would be happy with.”
Hundreds of thousands of tourists are expected to flock to the Forth Bridge each year under plans for guided walks to the top of the bridge’s south tower.
We revealed how a glass lift would also whisk visitors to the top of the landmark, with visitor centres built on both sides of the crossing. Network Rail hopes to have the ambitious plan partly in place by 2015.
Historic Scotland received 58 responses to its online questionnaire. Of those responses, only two raised major concerns about the impact that world heritage status could have on villages surrounding the bridge in a sign of the widespread public support for the bid.
Historic Scotland spokesman Dr Miles Oglethorpe, whose team is leading the world heritage bid, said: “We recognise there are issues that must be addressed if we are to fully realise the benefits that world heritage [status] can bring.”