Alastair Dalton: Queensferry Crossing opening plans won't please all

Bleary eyed commuters finding themselves back on the Forth Road Bridge this morning may wonder if driving over the Queensferry Crossing had been a dream, such is the stop-start nature of the bridge's opening timetable.

Friday, 1st September 2017, 9:06 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 12:05 pm
Walkers will find wider carriageways and a solid surface the width of the bridge. Picture: Ian Jacobs

For those who missed the first two days and are just getting round to taking a first spin across the new crossing, you’ve missed the boat, so to speak.

Motorists won’t now have a chance until next Thursday. Today might feel like Groundhog Day to some.

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Walkers will find wider carriageways and a solid surface the width of the bridge. Picture: Ian Jacobs

The six-day Queensferry Crossing closure after just two days’ service is to accommodate a series of bridge walks - pedestrians will otherwise be banned - and the Queen performing the official opening.

This convoluted timetable appears to be for the most part political expediency, along with an element of practicality.

Ministers will have been determined to get the bridge finally opened by the end of August - as they said it would - having had to twice announce delays because of bad weather.

Walkers will find wider carriageways and a solid surface the width of the bridge. Picture: Ian Jacobs

However, the anniversary of the Forth Road Bridge opening on 4 September was the obvious date to open the new bridge. Holding off until then would seem to have been more sensible.

I hear that confirmation had been awaited from Buckingham Palace, but surely First Minister Nicola Sturgeon would have stepped in had the Queen not been available?

There has also been the suggestion that the bridge could have been completed weeks earlier, since the date range given by economy secretary Keith Brown in March was mid-July to the end of August. I hear the plan was to open the bridge as soon as it was ready.

While the bridge is now open, or was, I get the sense it is never going to please everyone.

Reaction on social media on opening day was starkly divided between the delight of those making special trips to drive across the bridge and the frustration of commuters caught up in massive - but completely predictable - hold-ups. It was anger at rubber neckers writ large.

The same may go for the walks from tomorrow. They could be a publicity triumph - the bridge’s elegant lines wowing the 60,000-plus people lucky enough to get the chance.

Or traffic congestion or unexpected bad weather could make them a logistical disaster.

If anything, the hour-long walks are likely to whet the appetite for more - but imagine the outcry from drivers if the bridge is shut again after the Forth Road Bridge has been reconfigured for buses and taxis.

The best views of the Queensferry Crossing are of course from off the bridge, but features like the array of cables soaring up the 210m towers is quite a spectacle close up.

Walkers will find quite a different sense of space as they cross to that on the older bridge, such as the wider carriageways that include a hard shoulder.

There is also the reassurance of a solid surface stretching the width of the bridge between its three towers, compared to the unnerving void on each side of the Forth Road Bridge’s carriageways.

Walkers will certainly feel safer strolling across the new crossing, doubly protected by its 11ft- high windshielding - which has gaps to see through. On the older bridge, the walkways feel pretty exposed, even with no wind, and the 1960s-standard railings seem unsettlingly low considering their height above the Forth.