Concerns raised over proposed Forth Bridge visitor centre
Fife Council and local businesses have called on Network Rail to discuss the future of a proposed visitor centre and bridge walk at the Forth Bridge which has been delayed due to funding issues.
First unveiled in 2014, the £15 million Forth Bridge Visitor Experience would have seen a North Queensferry based visitor centre and lift and a South Queensferry based facility for bridge walkers.
However, the project was plunged into doubt after Network Rail admitted “non-core railway opportunities” are now less of a priority after changes to the organisation’s governance in 2015 restricted its ability to borrow money on projects that do not directly improve the transport system.
Depute Fife Council leader, Cllr Lesley Laird, and Stephen Doran, chair, Fife Economy Partnership (FEP), have called for a meeting with Network Rail’s chief executive, Mark Carne, to confirm the organisation’s position and to establish a working group of the national agencies to drive the project forward.
Cllr Lesley Laird said: “Fife Council and Fife businesses believe that the World Heritage inscription of the Forth Bridge has the potential to generate significant economic opportunities, particularly in the tourism sector, both locally and nationally. It is vital that the viewing platform and visitor centre are built to further attract visitors, increase employment and grow tourist spend in the Kingdom.
“The World Heritage inscribed bridge provides a gateway to the north of Scotland, raising the profile of Fife as a destination. There are clear opportunities for tourism growth in North and South Queensferry, along with the potential to develop the Bridge as a visitor attraction.”
FEP chair, Stephen Doran, said: “Although plans have been created by Network Rail that set out options for a Visitor Experience, we are increasingly concerned that there appears to be no funding earmarked for progressing these plans.
“We fear that the potential of the Forth Bridge as a World Heritage Site could be left untapped.”
Cllr Lesley Laird added: “As various agencies work towards developing the Forth Bridge World Heritage Site to deliver a world class experience, support from the Scottish Government will be essential.”