The other Forth bridge - 50 years of the remarkable road crossing

forth road bridge The Forth Road Bridge opened to traffic 50 years ago

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It is 50 years since the Forth Road Bridge opened to traffic, easing the crossing between Edinburgh and Fife and transforming the journey from north to south.

When it opened in 1964, it was the fourth biggest suspension bridge in the world and the longest outside the United States.

Five decades on, it carries 24 million vehicles across the Forth every year, but its days as a mass transport route are numbered.

A new crossing will open in two years' time and the Forth Road Bridge's role in the life of Scotland will be greatly reduced.

Those that work on the bridge now and those who helped to build the structure 50 years ago think that role has been undervalued.

forth bridge - one from gallery When it was built, it was the longest suspension bridge in Europe

Bridge historian Lillian King told the BBC programme The Bridge: Fifty years across the Forth: "Building the bridge absolutely transformed the country and transformed trade.

"When you think of the volume of traffic that goes across that bridge, and did from the beginning, people must have been just desperate to get this bridge open."

She adds: "They had been trying for at least 200 years to get a bridge or a tunnel to cross the Forth because they were aware that this was a main link between the south of Scotland and the Highlands."

Train travellers had been able to cross the estuary via the Forth Bridge since 1890.

The road bridge that was built alongside it has long lived in the shadow of its iconic neighbour.

ferry and forth bridge Before the road bridge was built ferries used to carry cars across the Forth

The utilitarian design of the road bridge, the traffic congestion and the maintenance problems that have dogged it in recent years have further downgraded this once great engineering feat.

"There are people who say that the road bridge is just a viewing platform for the rail bridge," says Kate Downie, artist in residence at the Forth Road Bridge.

"But I think of them as a bit like salt and pepper. You can't have one without the other."

Traci Liebisch, who is responsible for inspecting the road bridge on a daily basis, says the bridge is a "grand old lady".

She says: "I personally think she is quite an historic monument and Scotland should be proud of having a bridge like this.

"I think she's done not bad in her 50 years. I'm proud to work on a structure like this, that is known world-wide."

Before the road bridge opened on 4 September 1964, cars could only get across the Forth on a ferry.

Four ferries criss-crossed the river, with services running every 15 minutes at its peak.

Each ferry took about 30 cars, but they could also carry lorries and buses, caravans and passengers.

towers The towers were the first part of the bridge to be constructed
deck erection The road decks were built outwards from the main towers

Stephen Reid, who was one of the ferry skippers, says that in the early 1950s the ferry could sit at the pier for 15 minutes and leave empty because nobody had cars.

"Then all of a sudden everybody had cars and we just could not cope," he says.

Construction of the bridge began in 1958.

At the time, the longest suspension bridge in the world was San Francisco's Golden Gate, and the bridge across the Forth was based on its distinctive design.

Barry Colford, who is the current bridge master and chief engineer, says: "All the traffic, all the load of the bridge, is suspended in mid-air. It is very simple.

"It is just like a rope bridge over the Andes, except it is made of steel."

barry colford Barry Colford is the chief engineer on the road bridge

The three large suspension bridges that had been built before the Forth had all been in more "benign" climates and there were worries about the stormy Scottish weather.

Historian Lillian King says: "The thing they were afraid of was a repeat of the Tacoma Narrows bridge in America that shook itself to bits in gales not half the strength of the ones that hit the Forth."

Barry Colford says: "The Forth bridge had a stiffening girder because of the lessons learned at Tacoma in 1940."

By the time construction started in September 1958, the estimated cost of the bridge and its approach roads was £16.2m.

No company in the UK was large enough to take on the job alone so a consortium, the ACD bridge company, was formed.

The first job saw divers helping to build the dams that would allow water to be pumped out so the towers could be sunk into the river bed.

Once the newly-assembled steel towers were in place wire-mesh catwalks were installed high above the water to give the bridge workers access.

from the gallery Jimmy Lafferty was officially the first man to walk across the river on foot using the catwalk

Jimmy Lafferty, the steel-erecting foreman, was officially acknowledged as the first man to walk across the river on foot using the catwalk.

But two young engineers had in fact made it across before the walkways were finished.

Hector Woodhouse, an assistant engineer on the bridge, says: "They had not quite finished the mesh but we were not going to stopped."

His pal Alan MacDonald, a section engineer, adds: "We did a tightrope act down the cables so that we could become the first people to cross the bridge."

The pair stepped off together to both claim to be first.

first equal Hector Woodhouse and Alan MacDonald claimed to be the first to have crossed the bridge

The antics of Hector and Alan confirm Lillian King's assertion that health and safety was nothing like as rigorous as it is today.

She says: "Seven men died in the making of the bridge but only four men died on the bridge itself."

On 22 June 1962 the single worst accident of the whole bridge project was when Masterton viaduct, a large section of one of the approach roads, collapsed, trapping four men beneath it. Only one survived.

Once the towers and walkway were in place the next job was to spin the cables that would hold the bridge in place.

The main cable is made up of more than 11,000 high tensile steel wires and the process of "spinning" involved each individual wire being carried across the Forth on a large pulley system.

forth road bridge The road bridge has long been in the shadow of its famous neighbour

The work went on 24 hours a day. At either side of the river the wires were encased in concrete anchorages.

The spinning of the cable took nine months, with some 30,000 miles of wire being carried back and forth across the water.

By 1963, the towers and the cables were in place and the "Meccano set" work of erecting the deck could begin. It was built from the towers outwards

Ms King says: "This is a precision piece of work. You see it come out bit by bit. It is like building a tunnel, you wonder if it is going to match up when you get to the middle point."

On the 20 December 1963, the north and south sections of the bridge were joined in the middle, forming the basis of the fourth longest suspended span of steel roadway in the world.

from gallery The workers celebrated as the two halves of the structure came together perfectly

Current bridge master Barry Colford says: "The people who built the bridge and the engineers who designed it without computers, with seven-figure log tables, it is quite incredible how well it is built when you look at the tools they had to do it with."

The Forth Road Bridge was finally ready for its grand opening on 4 September 1964, a day so foggy the bridge could not be seen from the riverside.

The Queen officially opened the bridge and as her car drove across at 11am the fog started to lift.

George Barnett was a tea boy and handyman during the bridge's construction.

bridge night The bridge's days as a main transport route are numbered

He was chosen for the honour of unfurling a flag before the Queen crossed the bridge.

He said: "I was 18 when I hoisted the flag for the Queen. It was a great feeling.

"Three weeks after it we got paid off. That was the bridge finished. We all shook hands and went our different ways."

During the six years it took to construct, amateur film-maker Jim Hendry was given special access to the bridge and the men who were building it.

Fifty years on, the men who built the bridge were invited to watch Mr Hendry's film and were still proud of what they achieved.

Hector Woodhouse says: "Look at it. It is mathematics in action isn't it?"

Assistant engineer Douglas Strachan says: "It was three-and-a-half years of my life and I can drive over it in one-and-a-half minutes, but there is satisfaction. I can see something as an end product to my civil engineering career."

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  68.  
    09:56: Isles 'ideal' for spaceport

    The leader of Comhairle nan Siar has said Stornoway on Isle of Lewis has "critical features" that make it the "ideal location" for a UK spaceport.

    Bristol Spaceplanes

    Stornoway Airport is on a UK government shortlist of potential sites that could host commercial space plane flights and satellite launches.

    Angus Campbell said Lewis' geography and access to research and development facilities were suited to a spaceport.

    UK ministers are keen to see the spaceport established by 2018.

     
  69.  
    09:50: North bridge shut BBC Scotland Travel Latest

    #Edinburgh #A7 North Bridge clsd both ways between A1 Waterloo Place / A8 Princes Street and Chambers Street. Ongoing since around 09:30.

     
  70.  
    09:46: Your views - home or away?

    Barbara Kelly: My two siblings and I were born in Edinburgh to a Scottish mother and Polish father and are now all in Perth, Australia. I guess we inherited the travel gene.

    Have you stayed closer to home? Tell us why @bbcscotlandnews or by emailing newsonlinescotland@bbc.co.uk.

     
  71.  
    09:39: Man hit by car Philip Sim Tayside and Central reporter, BBC Scotland

    Police have warned of delays on the Kingsway in Dundee after a man was hit by a car.

    Officers and an ambulance are at the scene at the junction of Forfar Road, on the eastbound carriageway.

    The pedestrian suffered a leg injury in the collision.

    Police are investigating and said motorists should expect delays in the area and consider other routes.

     
  72.  
    09:27: Homebird? Marianne Taylor BBC Scotland news

    According to research, a third of Scots have never moved from the area where they grew up.

    Do you still live close to home? Or perhaps you or your friends or family have moved half way around the world to find happiness? Or maybe to the other end of Scotland?

    Tell us why you stayed - or why you moved - by tweeting @bbcscotlandnews. You can also email here.

     
  73.  
    09:14: Close to home

    Around a third of Scots never move away from the area they grew up in, according to research.

    In the west of Scotland, 34% of people have lived there all their life - more than in any other part of the country.

    Houses

    Liking the area, family links, good transport and affordable housing were identified as key reasons for staying in a particular area, according to the Bank of Scotland report.

    More than a fifth of 45 to 54-year-olds and almost a quarter of 25 to 34-year-olds have remained where they grew up, but only 16% of 35 to 44-year-olds have stayed in the same area.

     
  74.  
    08:59: Controversial plan given green light

    Protestors have failed in their bid to get the controversial Marischal Square development in Aberdeen halted.

    Last night councillors voted by just one vote to continue with the project.

    Aberdeen

    Members of the public expressed anger at being thrown out of the debate because when confidential legal advice was heard.

    It emerged the authority's finance Convenor, Willie Young, accidently leaked some of that advice to one of the campaigners.

     
  75.  
    08:47: Coming up on Morning Call... BBC Radio Scotland

    More than 450,000 Scots between the age of 40 and 65 are not on track to work the 30 years required for the full state pension.

    The 30 working years necessary to qualify for a state pension is being is raised to 35 years from April 2016 and research shows 28% of employees will not have been in work long enough.

    Darren Adam asks: Are you worried about your state pension?

    Lines are open now - call 0500 92 95 00 or text 80295.

     
  76.  
    08:43: The Guardian's Scotland correspondent Severin Carrell

    tweets: Green party held talks on alliance with SNP & Plaid Cymru, @CarolineLucas discloses to @rowenamason @guardian http://gu.com/p/46cg8/stw #GE2015

     
  77.  
    08:37: Murray ready for 'great' Glasgow showdown

    Andy Murray expects a "great" atmosphere for Great Britain's Davis Cup match with the United States in Glasgow.

    Andy Murray

    The 2013 Wimbledon champion says it will be "emotional" to play in Britain's first home contest in the elite World Group since 2002.

    Murray describes Davis Cup matches as "different" to the regular tour and talks of the need to "control your nerves and emotions".

    Watch the full interview here.

     
  78.  
    08:28: 'Still a long way to go'

    Asked on Good Morning Scotland about his party's poor performance in recent Scottish opinion polls, Mr Murphy said: "There's still a long way to go. In voting for an SNP MP, people will get a Tory government."

     
  79.  
    08:27: Murphy: Grand coalition talk 'nonsense'

    Asked whether he agreed with his Westminster Labour colleague Gisela Stuart MP that there could be a grand coalition with the Tories following a hung parliament after May's general election, Mr Murphy said: "Gisela is talking nonsense. That is not going to happen."

    Pressed on whether he would rule out a coalition with the SNP, he added: "The SNP has already ruled out a coalition with Labour. I'm not going to speculate on what will happen after the election. We're working to hold on to every one of our seats. Every seat we win is a seat closer to David Cameron losing office."

     
  80.  
    08:14: Murphy: Election in Scotland's hands

    Labour delegates are preparing to gather in Edinburgh for their one-day Scottish party conference tomorrow.

    The gathering comes amid dismal poll ratings for the party in Scotland.

    Jim Murphy

    Speaking on Good Morning Scotland, the party's Scottish leader Jim Murphy said the UK's future was in the hands of Scots.

    "This is an important conference," he said. "We're going to set out the real difference between ourselves and the Conservatives.

    "Scots have the power to remove David Cameron from office. This really is in Scotland's hands."

     
  81.  
    08:07: FM against assisted suicide

    The first minister has said she is "not convinced" by new legislation to allow assisted suicide.

    Nicola Sturgeon said she believed the priority should be to help people live.

    Nicola Sturgeon

    The Assisted Suicide Bill would allow those with terminal or life-shortening illnesses to obtain help in ending their lives.

    It is the second attempt to legislate for assisted suicide at Holyrood, after the first was defeated by MSPs in a free vote in 2010.

     
  82.  
    08:00: Greens call for SNP alliance

    Green Party MP Caroline Lucas is to call for a "progressive alliance" with the SNP as her party holds what it says is its largest ever conference in Liverpool.

    Caroline Lucas

    The Brighton Pavilion MP will say the two parties could "forge a new grouping in Parliament".

    The Greens are polling in similar numbers to the Lib Dems and say their membership quadrupled in the past year.

    But the party has faced criticism in recent weeks over some of its policies.

     
  83.  
    07:53: Historic treasures go online

    Historic Scotland has launched an online database cataloguing 400 objects from dozens of historic sites in Scotland.

    Artefacts, paintings and items spanning 200 years are available to view at the touch of a button.

    Historic archive

    The searchable online gallery includes the story of each item on display.

     
  84.  
    07:48: More M8 conjestion BBC Scotland Travel Latest

    Glasgow #M8 1 lane shut RTC w/b J29 St James/ J30 Erskine Bridge. Lane two (Of two) is closed. Adding to routine congestion.

     
  85.  
    07:42: Read all about it

    Police Scotland's policy on arming officers, the experience of Scotland's asylum seekers and Harrison Ford's plane crash all make this morning's front pages.

    Paper collage

    Read our full newspaper review here.

     
  86.  
    07:34: M8 delays BBC Scotland Travel Latest

    Slow traffic #M8 Eastbound at J4 A801 (Whitburn). In the roadworks area. Travel time is ten minutes.

     
  87.  
    07:33: 'Rangers can soon be number two'

    Dave King has been speaking to BBC Scotland about his immediate plans for Rangers ahead of today's key meeting on the future of the club.

    Dave King

    He said: "Stage one, within a short time, is to have Rangers as the number two club in Scotland - that can happen very quickly."

    But he admitted it would take "some time" for the club to fully challenge Old Firm rivals Celtic.

     
  88.  
    07:25: New island ferry breaks down

    A new £42m ferry built for the Stornoway to Ullapool route has broken down forcing operator Caledonian MacBrayne to get its predecessor to take over sailings across the Minch.

    The MV Loch Seaforth only made its first passenger sailing on 13 February.

    Ferry

    It was built with three back-up engines which led to claims the ship was unlikely to ever break down.

    The ferry was stuck in Ullapool on Thursday night and the replacement was sent to take passengers to Stornoway.

     
  89.  
    07:18: Deal on power stations Douglas Fraser Business and economy editor, Scotland

    The closure of Longannet or Peterhead power stations is set to be postponed by a deal to secure generating back-up.

    The giant coal-burner in Fife was facing earlier closure than expected, with its owner, Scottish Power, blaming the expense of connecting to the grid.

    Longannet

    However, National Grid has conceded it needs back-up to avoid power failures if the wind drops and Scottish wind turbines do not produce energy.

    It is negotiating with owners of gas and coal-burning power stations.

     
  90.  
    07:15: Rangers latest Chris McLaughlin BBC Sport

    Rangers announce Sandy Easdale's voting rights in company have fallen 6% to just over 20%.

     
  91.  
    Ferries cancelled BBC Scotland Travel Latest

    All #Uig - #Lochmaddy sailings have been cancelled today due to the high winds.

     
  92.  
    07:10: Today's weather BBC Scotland Weather Latest

    A cloudy, mild day to come, with outbreaks of rain across the north and west. Across southern Scotland we may see a few spots of rain but it will remain largely dry.

    A southwesterly wind will gradually strengthen during the day, reaching gale force in exposed parts of the west coast and Shetland. Temperatures will reach nine to 12 Celsius.

     
  93.  
    07:04: Rangers shareholders gather

    Rangers' extraordinary general meeting at Ibrox on Friday is expected to be swift, but with far-reaching consequences for the club.

    Shareholder Dave King is believed to have more than enough votes to secure the simple majority required to have his five resolutions passed.

    Ibrox

    He wants chief executive Derek Llambias and finance director Barry Leach voted off the board.

    And King is nominating himself, Paul Murray and John Gilligan as directors.

     
  94.  
    07:00: Welcome Marianne Taylor BBC Scotland news

    Good morning and welcome to BBC Scotland Live. We'll be here till 19:00 with all the latest news, sport, travel and weather from across Scotland.

    Stay in touch on Twitter using @bbcscotlandnews or by emailing newsonlinescotland@bbc.co.uk.

     

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