When the Scottish Government was bombarded with more than 7,500 names after opening the floor to public suggestions on what to christen the new Forth bridge in 2013, it’s unlikely the moniker ‘Kevin’ was given much, if any, thought.
However, four years later, as the residents of South Queensferry prepare for a glut of visitors ahead of a weekend that will see more than 50,000 people scramble to be among the first to walk across the 1.7-mile stretch, the Queensferry Crossing’s local nickname might be about to gain a wider appeal.
“I don’t think everyone loves the name, but most of the kids in the town have taken to calling it Kevin,” said Mark Taylor, director of Forth Bridges Tours.
“Mr Bridges is the big, strong, redheaded Scot and his wife the slender, younger Mrs Bridges. Now they have their new son, ‘Kevin’.
“Obviously we get a laugh at that and the kids love it, but when you tell that to foreign tourists, it just goes right over their head.”
Of all the potentially divisive issues surrounding the construction of the crossing, the decision to adopt such a “bland” moniker for the £1.3 billion behemoth seems to have caused the most discord between those living in its shadow.
The adoption of a nickname after the Scots comic appears to have solved the problem.
Residents in the town have generally welcomed the new project with open arms as both a practical measure for the area and a potential tourist bonanza.
Early signs of the effect of the new crossing have been positive.
More than 1,000 new homes are under construction across a number of developments, while house prices have shot up by more than a third over the past year, according to figures released by ESPC, making Queensferry one of the most desirable areas in Scotland to live.
A new Lothian bus service connecting the town with Edinburgh’s city centre has replaced the outdated and often maligned Stagecoach offering, while tentative talks over a newly-refurbished and expanded Queensferry Community High School have been considered.
Despite serious opposition towards the bridge project on numerous occasions – the ForthRight Alliance fought against a second crossing as far back as 1994 – now, little dissenting sentiment remains.
Instead, visitors who take to the water on one of the multitude of boat tours are now offered the chance to loop up and around the new crossing as part of the experience. Opposite the pier, the Caledonia Scotia shop has stocked up on postcards boasting stunning aerial vistas of the crossings, while further along the High Street, a seafood restaurant has rebranded itself as “The Three Bridges”.
The town is determined to cash in on its rediscovered infrastructure fame, with the new crossing even inspiring the creation of its own craft beer, a limited edition brewed by the ‘Ferry Brewery’ to mark its inauguration.
“We’re doing a new beer to commemorate the three bridges. We have one already called the ‘Ferry Crossing,’ but the Three Bridges will be ready for next week,” says master brewer Mark Moran.
“They all carry some significance. It’s adding a new bit of history.”
“From a business perspective, hopefully the crossing drives more people here. We get a lot in anyway to see the rail bridge, but if this can drive a few more people into the town, then the businesses benefit from that.”
Queensferry has never had problems attracting visitors to the town, the rail bridge remains one of the most iconic images of Scotland and the award of Unesco World Heritage status in 2015 further helped to drive up tourism numbers.
“We get a lot of ‘bridge tourists,’ revealed Mark, “I’ve had people on tours who worked on the Golden Gate Bridge, or the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Quebec Bridge, they come from all over just to see what it’s all about.”
However, with 12 cruise liners set to arrive in the town before the end of the year and a further 65 to dock in 2018, keeping visitors in the area has proved a more difficult task.
“When tourists get off the cruise ships, they immediately get whisked into Edinburgh and I doubt the bridge is going to make much difference to that,” said David Steele, owner of the Stag Head Hotel.
“The rail bridge is the one everyone comes for, after that, they leave. I don’t see much benefit for places like ours.”
Tour director Mark said he wanted the town to go “all-in” when embracing the bridges and build a “genuine tourist destination”.
He said: “I think we’re possibly the only Unesco site in the world without a proper visitor centre.
“If we want to go all in and embrace this, to really make Queensferry a much more attractive place to visit and spend time, we need that.
“This is an ancient crossing point, there have been ferries here from as far back as the 11th century. Historically, this has been such a crucial crossing point for all of our monarchs and Queensferry has constantly evolved along with that.
He added: “We want there to be a legacy from this. We don’t want Queensferry to be that place where people come, they have a coffee, maybe an ice-cream down by the water then get their selfie at the bridge and go. We want people to stay and explore the town.”