Given what’s happening around the world right now, finding ‘good news’ stories in the media is getting tougher. So the opening of the new Queensferry Crossing is one that we should talk up, if only because it’s already been called ‘one of the world’s great bridges’.
OK. So the person who said that was the man in charge of the project, Michael Martin, but why shouldn’t he be proud? The new bridge is an immense achievement and a credit to the 15,000 people who worked on it.
It’s the largest infrastructure project carried out in Scotland for a generation and the facts and figures surrounding its building are mind boggling. The bridge deck weighs 35,000 tonnes, the equivalent to 200 Boeing 747s while the southern tower alone needed 16,000 cubic meters of concrete.
Now that it’s open, the bridge will be expected to earn its keep. As the main road route between Edinburgh and Fife, it will carry up to 24 million vehicles a year.
You could excuse the Queen for suffering from déjà vu when she came to officially open it recently. She officially opened its predecessor (the imaginatively called Forth Road Bridge) in 1964, just fifty three years ago and which is already showing it age. Corrosion was found in its steel trusses some time ago which meant it had to be replaced.
This would have brought a wry smile to the Scottish engineers who built the original – and now iconic – rail bridge in the 19th Century and which, apart from needing lots (and lots) of paint, is still going strong today.
We’ll leave others better qualified than us to argue about whether ‘form follows function or function follows form’ because not only is the bridge very functional, it is also, well, very beautiful. Some of the early photos of the bridge showing its elegant three towers and lattice work of cable stays proves what British engineers can achieve when they set their minds to it. (Of course the £1.35 billion they were given to build it might have helped).
But let’s not be churlish. Let’s celebrate something of which we can all be proud. A British bridge.