Some of the men who helped build the original Forth Road Bridge have been reunited on the site of the new Forth Replacement Crossing.
Around 30 former workmen met with members of the team responsible for the construction of the new bridge. They were invited by contractors, Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors (FCBC), to come on site for a detailed briefing on the design and technical challenges involved in building the new bridge.
They were joined by Transport Minister Keith Brown in the newly opened Contact and Education Centre at South Queensferry.
Keen to locate as many veterans as possible, hosts FCBC placed adverts in the local press and the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) journal to raise awareness of the event.
Mr Brown said:
“When the Forth Road Bridge opened in September 1964, it was one of the most impressive feats of engineering of the time. The Forth Replacement Crossing is of the most impressive of ours. Where else in the world will you find three iconic bridges spanning three centuries, and representing the highest standards of civil engineering achieved in each?
“It was fascinating to meet with many of those who played such a pivotal role in the construction of the original bridge. They are impressive characters and have many stories to tell. Some of the challenges, such as coping with the severe weather, are still relevant today.
“They were also interested to hear about some of the advances that have been made in the past 40 years, and they seemed impressed with the new exhibition at South Queensferry which aims to capture some of the real stories behind the three different bridges that span three centuries.
“Coming hard on the heels of the new Education Centre opening its doors and the incredible level of public interest in the naming process, it’s important that the new crossing continues to reach out to people of all ages in the community.
“The Forth Road and Rail Bridges are arguably the most recognised icons of Scotland. The existing structures are stunning feats of civil engineering from the 19th and 20th centuries, and having spoken to those involved in the original bridge today I am confident the new 21st century bridge will educate and inspire future engineers in the same way.
“Of course 2013 promises to be a crucial year for the most significant Scottish infrastructure project for a generation. The permanent structure is expected to become visible as the bridge towers start to rise from the waters of the Forth and the people of Scotland get the chance to vote for the permanent name for their bridge.”
Carlo Germani, FCBC Project Director, said:
“This is a very special event. It is a rare honour and real pleasure for everybody at FCBC to meet some of the talented people who built the new crossing’s famous predecessor.
“Things have changed a great deal in construction over the past half century, so we have a huge amount to learn from each other. We look forward to having an on-going relationship with the “veterans” over the years ahead as the new bridge takes shape and to continue working with the rest of the community in order to inspire interest in what we are constructing out in the Forth.”
FETA Vice-Convener and Edinburgh Councillor Jim Orr said:
“It is always a privilege to meet the people who built the structure we are so proud to maintain. The Forth Road Bridge was the first of its kind outside the USA and was constructed at a time when there was comparatively little health and safety provision. I think many of us take the bridge for granted nowadays but we all owe a great debt to the heroic workers who made this possible.
“Next year will see the bridge’s 50th birthday and we are looking forward to welcoming back as many veterans as possible for a fitting celebration of this milestone.”
The veterans were welcomed on-site by Carlo Germani and David Climie, FCBC and Transport Scotland Project Directors respectively, and Barry Colford, FETA Chief Executive and Bridgemaster. This was followed by an in-depth presentation by FCBC on progress to date both on the bridge works and on the approach roads which will ultimately connect the new bridge to the wider roads network.
The veterans then moved over to the FETA Boardroom for a presentation by Mr Colford on the current bridge operations and plans for the future, including the 2014 celebrations to mark the bridge’s half century. The veterans were taken on an hour long tour of the construction site on both shores of the Forth.