Today is another of those landmark occasions, as the opening of the Queensferry Crossing places another historic date on the nation’s timeline, which already features the Forth Bridge in 1890 and the Forth Road Bridge in 1964. On each of these occasions, crowds gathered to marvel at the spectacular feats of engineering spanning the Firth of Forth, and all eyes will be on this latest addition today as the first vehicles make the journey between Lothian and Fife on the new bridge.
Provided that congestion from motorists desperate to be among the first to cross doesn’t spoil the occasion, today should be a moment to savour a spectacular design that has met with virtually universal approval and admiration.
And yet not so long ago there were passionate arguments over whether this bridge was needed at all. Critics said that concern over the fabric of the Forth Road Bridge was overplayed; that an extra crossing would only encourage road use and therefore further harm the environment; that itwas a political vanity project; and that the money could have been spent on the likes of new hospitals or schools.
But the need for a new crossing was highlighted when the Forth Road Bridge was closed for three weeks in December 2015 because of structural problems, causing unprecedented disruption and cutting off a vital link between north and south. The original road bridge was not built to carry the amount of traffic present today, and when we consider the lifespan of the new crossing is estimated at 150 years, it is unthinkable to imagine the now 53-year old Forth Road Bridge coping for another 100 years.
Whether we were for it or against it, the Queensferry Crossing has been completed, and like the Scottish Parliament, the Borders Railway and the Edinburgh tram line, the arguments over whether it should have been built or not are now futile.
The bridge is here, a little later than first estimated but comfortably under budget, and it is destined to become an iconic symbol of modern Scotland. We live in an era of perpetual uncertainty and worry, but today, and the coming week, is a time for celebration and pride.