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1964: Forth Road Bridge opened
The Queen has officially opened Europe's longest suspension bridge linking Edinburgh to Perth across the River Forth.

Tens of thousands of spectators turned up to watch the royal cavalcade slowly cross the 3,300ft (1,005m) central span of the bridge.

Soldiers of Lowland regiments from the south linked up symbolically with a Highland brigade from the north to mark the opening of the new crossing, which cuts more than an hour off the journey-time by road.

The Forth Road Bridge is currently the fourth longest in the world - but it will be succeeded by the Tagus in Portugal which will be 23ft (7m) longer when it opens in 1967.

Opening ceremony

Twenty-five Royal Navy ships fired a salute of guns and after a brief opening speech from the Queen there was also a fly-past.

The new bridge sits beside the old cantilever rail bridge, opened in 1890 by the then Prince of Wales.

Afterwards the Queen returned across the Forth by ferry, marking the final trip in the 800-year-old service.

At its peak, the service was running 40,000 trips a year, carrying 1.5m people.

The four ferryboats have been run by 70 men only 30 of whom will be re-employed on the new bridge collecting tolls. For some it will mean a salary cut from 18 to 12 a week.

The opening ceremony is estimated to have cost 25,000 - only a fraction of the cost of building the bridge.

When the idea was first mooted in 1946, the estimated cost was put at 6m. The Government contributed 4,650,000 and has never increased its grant.

The remainder of the money has come from an Exchequer loan, which now looks like it will never be paid off.

Assuming five million cars cross the bridge annually, the toll charge of 2s 6d will bring in an annual income of 600,000, but this will not even pay off the interest on the loan. The cost of the crossing would have to be raised to 13s to repay the loan but that is considered far too expensive.

Up to 400 men have worked on the bridge sometimes in very dangerous conditions with winds up to 100mph. Three men lost their lives - others were saved by the terylene safety nets suspended beneath them.

It took 39,000 tons of steel, 30,800 miles of wire in the suspension cables, and is 163ft above the river at its highest point.

The bridge will eventually be silver-grey in colour, but work on its final coat was suspended for the opening ceremony.

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Forth Road Bridge viewed from south side with plaque
The Forth Road Bridge viewed from the south side with the commemorative plaque to mark its royal opening

In Context
The cost of the Forth Road Bridge was repaid. Today it costs 80p for a car to cross and the tolls are being used to pay for major renovation works.

Traffic has risen steadily from four million vehicle in 1964 to 23 million in 2002. The weight limit has also increased - in 1964 the heaviest lorries weighed 24 tonnes, now they weigh 44.

Over 100 staff are employed maintaining the bridge, collecting tolls and administering traffic.

Major works have been carried out on the bridge in recent years to strengthen the two main towers to ensure they were capable of bearing the heavier loads crossing the bridge.

Work has also been carried out to replace all the suspension cables and it is currently being re-painted with more environmentally-friendly paint.

There are also plans to introduce electronic tolling and even for a new bigger bridge to relieve the congestion.

On 3 April 2001 the bridge was listed.

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