PEOPLE will have their first chance to ascend to the top of the Forth Bridge next year as part of the iconic rail crossing’s 125th anniversary celebrations.
The move comes in advance of a new visitor centre connected to a viewing platform by “panoramic” lifts, which is due to open at the north tower in 2017.
Visitors will pay £125 to take a workers’ hoist to a temporary platform on the top of the tower, 360ft above the Forth.
Many of the 250 available tickets, to raise money for the Prince’s Trust, have been sold by word of mouth alone.
However, bridge owner Network Rail said it would consider organising more trips – which are limited to 12 people each – ahead of construction work starting on the visitor complex.
Ticket holders will be given an expert’s eye view of the bridge by those in charge of its massive re-painting project during the 20 to 30-minute trips.
They will be taken up in a metal cage which runs up the east side of the Fife cantilever (tower) on the equivalent of a giant ladder.
The ascent from the base of the tower in North Queensferry passes track level before reaching a 40ft-wide toughened plastic viewing deck, with scaffolding poles as guard rails.
The breathtaking views available on a clear day include from Ben Lomond, beside Loch Lomond, in the west, to Berwick Law, near North Berwick, to the east. The trips follow the public being given access to the top of one of the adjacent Forth Road Bridge’s towers as part of its 50th birthday events this year.
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They formed part of the inaugural Forth Bridges Festival, which will be repeated next year, focusing on the rail bridge.
A major celebratory event is planned for September, although Network Rail has yet to decide whether to try to emulate the road bridge’s spectacular fireworks display three months ago or the rail bridge’s own equally applauded pyrotechnics, which marked its centenary in 1990.
However, the bridge’s milestone may be crowned if its application for World Heritage Site status is approved. A decision by the United Nations is expected in the summer.
Network Rail hopes to raise £175,000 from both the bridge-top visits and charity abseils, which will go to Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland, cancer charity CLIC Sargent and construction industry charity The Lighthouse Club.
The rail firm this month awarded a six-figure design contract for the visitor centre and lift, which Scotland on Sunday revealed in 2012. Planning for the £15 million Forth Bridge Experience will also include a Sydney Harbour Bridge-style climb at the southern end of the structure. Groups of up to 15 people would be led along walkways and catwalks to the top of the Queensferry cantilever (south tower).
A Network Rail spokesman said: “In our view, the Forth Bridge is the world’s most magnificent bridge due to its enormous historical influence and the fact that, 125 years on, it continues to be a vitally important gateway for Scotland’s transport infrastructure.
“In many ways, Network Rail’s key legacy for the 125th anniversary has been the completion of the ten-year long restoration in 2012.
“It is in better condition now than at any time since it was opened in 1890.
“We know there continues to be a huge amount of interest in the bridge and we are eager to harness that enthusiasm.
“With our visitor centre proposals now at design stage and a renewed international interest in the Three Bridges area, we want to encourage events and activities which can help people from across the country and the world to share their family stories and experiences of the Forth Bridge.”
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