Forth Road Bridge climb: Tourists subsidise locals

Forth Road Bridge workers scale the main suspension cables. Picture: EN licence
Forth Road Bridge workers scale the main suspension cables. Picture: EN licence
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WHEN it comes to building bridges, it’s good to know the people behind proposals to allow adventurous types to the top of the Forth Road Bridge are planning to keep the cost down.

For we can reveal tickets to climb to the top of the Forth Road Bridge next year will be kept under £50 each for residents – in a bid by organisers to make the vertigo-inducing experience more accessible.

At least half of the planned 2014 tower climbs offered as part of the Year of Homecoming celebrations will be reserved locally, with a public ballot expected to decide who gets the in-demand passes.

And while the experience is still likely to be pricey in comparison with other Scottish tourist attractions, organisers have revealed they will be charging international visitors a premium in an effort to keep prices as low as possible for locals.

The climbs, which will be a key feature of next year’s Forth Bridges Festival, will take place across seven weekends starting from July.

Under existing plans, groups of ten will be taken up one of the bridge’s towers, with each tour lasting about two hours.

Participants will be able to climb to the very top of the tower’s legs where the aircraft warning lights are situated – 156m above sea level – but only if weather conditions are calm.

Strong winds on the day would limit the climb to the bridge’s 150m-high horizontal cross beam.

Each climber will ride a three-man lift up the tower before completing the final ascent up a 12m vertical ladder in a harness.

A Forth Estuary Transport Authority spokesman said: “The thinking is really to open up this opportunity to as many people as possible. We know that it’s something that a lot of people have long wanted to do – we are very keen to keep it no more expensive than the price of going to see Scotland play at Murrayfield, for example.”

Chief engineer and bridgemaster Barry Colford said: “FETA has well-established procedures for escorting visitors to the tower tops. These will be reviewed and enhanced where appropriate to accommodate large numbers of visitors.”

City transport vice-convener Councillor Jim Orr, who has previously climbed the bridge, described it as a “spectacular and exhilarating” experience.

He said: “The festival will be paid for by a combination of corporate sponsorship, ticket sales and other public funding. No money allocated for the maintenance of the bridge is being used to fund the festival.”

Proceeds from the tickets will be used to help fund the rest of the Year of Homecoming programme. A parade across the bridge, a fireworks display and a flotilla of boats in the Forth are among other events taking place during next year’s Forth Bridges Festival.

The bridge will be shut to traffic on the morning of 
September 7 for the parade.

A trial run of the tower climbs will be completed with dignitaries visiting Edinburgh for the International Cable Supported Bridge Operators’ Conference next month. It is the first time the triennial conference has been held in Britain, with engineers from the world’s most famous bridges such as the Golden Gate in San Francisco all visiting the Capital from June 3-5.

Guided walks are also in the pipeline for the top of the Forth Bridge under plans to win World Heritage status for the iconic rail structure.

Cost of Edinburgh icons

Entry to Edinburgh Castle: £16 for an adult ticket.

The Real Mary King’s Close tour: £12.95 for an adult ticket.

Climb up Scott Monument: £4.

Forth Bridges cruise and landing at Inchcolm Island: £17.50.

Whisky tasting tour at the Whiski Rooms: £17.50.

Entry to Edinburgh

Zoo: £16 for an adult ticket.

Entry to National Museum for Scotland: Free/donation.

Ticket to an Edinburgh Festival show: Free to £15 (although the price depends on the event).

Climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat: Free.

Photo with Greyfriars Bobby: Free