A MAJOR milestone has been reached in the construction of the £1.4 billion new Queensferry Crossing as the centre tower reaches deck height.
Forth Bridge commuters can now clearly see giant towers and V-shaped supports jutting out of the water.
Scotland’s largest transport infrastructure project for decades is due to be completed by the end of 2016 and Transport Scotland has stressed the bridge will be delivered on time and on budget.
The arrival of four steel shipments from China last month signalled the next phase of construction which will see the laying of bridge decks. Each weighs 250 tonnes and will be attached to the central tower by late summer.
The deck itself is made up of 33-metre segments, weighing 72 tonnes, and arrives by road from Cleveland Bridge in Darlington.
The main tower currently stands around 60 metres, the north tower 48 metres and the south tower 40 metres high.
Work on three of the seven piers supporting the southern viaduct has now been concluded – with the fourth on the verge of completion.
The viaduct has been built to nearly half its final 543 metre length.
On the Fife side of the estuary, work to connect several road networks is well under way while preparatory work has begun to upgrade the Ferry Toll junction.
It is also hoped that the new Queensferry junction will open this summer.
The next phase of construction will see the arrival of a large floating crane to install support trestles for each tower.
In the marine yard at Rosyth, the deck-lifting gantries are being assembled and preparations have already begun to cast the concrete on top of the first steel deck units. This will increase the weight of the lofty structures from 250 to 750 tonnes.
Transport Minister Keith Brown praised the progress of the crossing which, on completion, will be the tallest bridge in the UK and among the largest of its type in the world.
He said: “We are seeing great progress on the Queensferry Crossing, earlier this week the centre tower reached the height of the bridge’s deck at 60 metres high.
“Elsewhere on the project the V-shaped piers on the south of the Forth are increasing in height and number with the viaduct being pushed out even further towards its final 543-metre length. On the connecting road network, preparations for the upgrade to the Ferrytoll junction are progressing well and will continue over the coming months.
“While on the south side the new Queensferry junction is on schedule to open this summer, diverting the A904 across it allowing the excavation of the southern approach roads to be completed.
“The project is under budget and remains on schedule to be completed by the end of 2016.”
In February the team behind the new crossing issued an assurance that, unlike the Forth Road Bridge, it would remain open no matter the weather.
The new bridge has been fitted with special barriers – modelled in a wind tunnel – that will prevent it from having to close in a storm. Its sister, the current Forth Road Bridge, is not always traffic friendly, closing to high-sided vans and HGVs in strong winds.
Speaking in February, David Climie, project director for Transport Scotland, vowed: “The windshields have undergone wind tunnel testing and there will be no need to close the bridge in high winds.”
When it is finished the cable-stayed bridge will have three single column towers and be 2.7km long with two general lanes of traffic and hard shoulders.
Around 250 out of 415 subcontracts from the Queensferry Crossing have gone to Scottish companies and 75 per cent of the 1000-strong workforce are from north of the border. Scottish firms have been awarded subcontracts or supply orders with a total value of about £157 million.
Last September, the world’s largest continuous underwater concrete pour was achieved during foundation work for the south tower.
The huge 15-day, 24-hour operation, successfully poured 16,869 cubic metres of concrete.