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Forth Bridge visitor centre not impacted by new World Heritage Status

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Proposals to create visitor facilities at the Forth Rail Bridge outside Edinburgh will not be affected by last week’s decision to grant the structure world heritage site status by UNESCO

The bridge, which spans the Firth of Forth between South Queensferry on the outskirts of the Scottish capital and North Queensferry in Fife, has been offered protected status 150-years after it was constructed.

Speaking to the AJ, Craig Bowman, senior communications officer at Network Rail, which has commissioned the new visitor experience proposals, welcomed the listing of the bridge.

He said: ‘We have drawn up the plans always in the expectation that the bridge would get world heritage status. The structure is already a listed building so we have been trying to make the scheme as hidden and reversible as possible.

‘The UNESCO decision just means we will have to continue to consult with Historic Scotland as we progress the proposals.’

A public consultation on detailed proposals is planned for the end of the summer, with a planning application expected before the end of the year, Bowman said.

The scheme would see a bridge walk to the top of the southern tower and back to South Queensferry. A viewing tower and visitor centre is planned for the northern side of the bridge.

The recommendation was approved at a meeting of the UN’s heritage committee in Bonn, Germany last weekend, three years after the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced a nomination would be prepared for the Forth Bridge. 

Opened in 1890, the railway bridge was designed by John Fowler and Benjamin Baker, and at 2,529m long it is the world’s longest multi-span cantilever bridge.

World heritage status is given to sites of ‘outstanding universal value’ with the aim of protecting them for future generations.

According to UNESCO the structure was recognised for its ‘distinctive industrial aesthetic and striking red colour’.

In its report the organisation, added: ‘Innovative in design, materials and scale, the Forth Bridge is an extraordinary and impressive milestone in bridge design and construction during the period when railways came to dominate long-distance land travel.’

The bridge joins five sites in Scotland already on the UNESCO register alongside 24 other British schemes including the Tower of London, the Giant’s Causeway and Stonehenge.

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