The Queensferry Crossing is on target to open earlier than expected and below budget, it has been announced.
All three of the bridge’s towers now stand at over half of their final 210-metre height, with the concrete structures set to be completed this summer and the first cables put in place in spring.
Construction chiefs said the project’s final cost – which was cut from an estimated £1.6 billion to £1.4 bn last year – could be slashed even further due to low inflation and a lack of disputes and other delays, with the potential for the bridge to open before the expected date of December 2016.
From spring until the new crossing opens, drivers using the Forth Road Bridge will be slowed to 40mph – enforced by new speed cameras – while junctions are built at either end.
David Climie, project director for Transport Scotland, insisted the bridge would look “very impressive” by the end of this year.
He said: “The towers will be at full height and we will have the support fans built out, and the north and south approach viaducts will be in their position.”
Around ten per cent of the bridge’s 122 concrete and steel decks – which can weigh up to 800 tonnes – have been placed, with the remainder expected to be in position by spring next year, enabling workers to walk from one side of the bridge to the other.
Meanwhile, surfacing of the bridge and all mechanical and electrical work is on course to begin by summer 2016.
During a visit to the site yesterday, Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown said the Queensferry Crossing was “one of the most significant bridge projects under way in the world.”
He said: “There are now over 1000 people working on the project in what is a 24-hour operation out on the water.
“The entire scheme has been widely praised as a shining example of good, efficient project management. With all of this work under way on a number of fronts I am very pleased to say that the project continues on schedule and under budget.”
The building work includes a major upgrading of the A90 Ferrytoll junction just north of the bridge where traffic from both crossings will meet.
Michael Martin, project director from the Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors consortium, said he was “very pleased” with progress and said the finished bridge would compare favourably with its two famous neighbours.
He said: “They are all iconic bridges of their era, and it’s fantastic to have the three bridges here. It’s unusual in the world to have three major, pioneering bridges next to each other.”