Police to lead first motorists across Queensferry Crossing
It will be the final challenge of a fiendishly complex logistical operation to forge a new landmark for Scotland over the depths of the Forth.
Now, after six years of methodical planning in which no detail has been left to chance, fate will decide the first person to travel across the new Queensferry Crossing.
With the £1.35 billion bridge due to open to traffic tomorrow for the first time, hundreds of motorists are expected to descend on Queensferry in the hope of embarking on the inaugural journey.
However, there will no queues or ticketing system in place to decide who makes history. Instead, a rolling diversion plan will be in place to guide traffic headed for the Forth Road Bridge towards the new 1.7 mile crossing spanning the Forth.
The northbound carriageway will be the first to admit traffic, before the southbound route is opened approcimately 45 minutes later.
It is expected that around 80,000 cars will pass over the bridge over the course of the day, but the focus will be on who is first.
The timing of when the diversions begin is a closely guarded secret in order to prevent an influx of traffic, although it is expected to come into force before 6am.
Planning has been under way for weeks by Police Scotland, Transport Scotland, and Amey ahead of tomorrow’s much-awaited opening, and extra police vehicles are expected to be in place at either side of the new bridge in order to prevent motorists from idling.
With public interest in the bridge at an all-time high, congestion around the crossing is anticipated, particularly given it forms part of a new road layout.
However, any early visitors to the bridge hoping to race past those ahead of them in the hope of being the first to make the crossing are in for disappointment.
Police Scotland will be controlling the speed of the traffic – up to a maximum temporary speed limit of 40mph – and it will not be possible to overtake, meaning that technically, a police car will be the first to travel across the bridge.
As many as 24 million vehicles are expected to use the crossing each year, easing the strain on the problem-hit Forth Road Bridge. The latter will be used for buses, taxis and bikes.
After the switchover, the new crossing – now the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world – will be fully open to traffic for the rest of tomorrow and Thursday, before it closes to all traffic in the early hours of Friday.
Come the weekend, around 50,000 members of the public who won tickets in a ballot will get a “one in a lifetime” opportunity to walk over the new bridge.
As part of planning for the major event, a ban on low flying aircraft, including drones, has been imposed over the Forth, with the restrictions remaining in place from 7am to 7:30pm on Saturday and Sunday.
The structure will officially be opened by the Queen on Monday during a ceremony in which it will be blessed by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
Around 10,000 local people and school pupils will then have the chance to walk across the bridge for themselves a week today before it eventually re-opens for good to traffic next Thursday.