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Forth Bridge to bid for World Heritage Status

28 May 2012

                   Forth Rail Bridge

The Forth Bridge will be put forward to UNESCO to consider making it a World Heritage Site.

The nomination of the engineering icon will be submitted to the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for a decision at the 2015 meeting.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said:

“The Forth Bridge is a Scottish icon that is recognised the world over. We are extremely excited that we have the opportunity to make the case for the Bridge being inscribed as Scotland’s sixth World Heritage Site.

“To have the Bridge inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site would be a tremendous accolade for the Bridge itself, for the local communities and for Scotland. This nomination has the potential to be a celebration of our country’s incredible engineering ingenuity and pedigree and I wish the team working on it all the best.”

The nomination will be overseen by the Forth Bridges Forum, which includes representatives from Historic Scotland, bridge owners Network Rail, Transport Scotland, the Forth Estuary Transport Authority, Fife Council and City of Edinburgh Council.

David Simpson, route managing director for Network Rail Scotland, commented:

“The Forth Bridge is one of the most recognisable bridges anywhere in the world and certainly the most cherished Scottish structure of the Victorian era.

“The bridge has become a source of pride and a symbol of Scotland’s resilience and ingenuity but we must never lose sight of the fact that it is first and foremost a working structure which still carries over 200 trains a day.

“This nomination should be regarded as a further tribute to the thousands of men who have contributed to building, maintaining and restoring the structure over the last 130 years."

If successful, the rail bridge would be the sixth World Heritage Site in Scotland – The Heart of Neolithic Orkney, The Antonine Wall (part of the transnational Frontiers of the Roman Empire WHS), the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, St Kilda and New Lanark.

A revised UK Tentative List was announced in March 2011 that included 3 Scottish sites - Mousa, Old Scatness and Jarlshof: the Zenith of Iron Age Shetland, the Flow Country and the Forth Bridge

The remaining sites on the Tentative List will be given the opportunity to submit Technical Evaluations to DCMS in the autumn of 2013, detailing why they are worthy of designation. This will inform future decisions regarding which sites will be submitted to UNESCO and when this will be.

The Forth Bridge is the world’s first large-scale steel cantilever bridge.  It is 2.5km (1.5 miles) long and comprises two girder spans of 521 metre (1,710ft) made up of three 105 metre (351 ft) high double-cantilevers, with a long approach viaduct on tall granite-faced piers at its South end.

Work on the Bridge was commenced in 1882 and formally completed on March 4, 1890 by HRH Edward Prince of Wales.

The bridge used 54,000 tonnes of steel and an estimated 6,500,000 rivets.  Its total cost was £3,200, 000 (equivalent to around £235 million today).

The contractor responsible for building the bridge was the innovative Glasgow engineer, William Arrol, whose main works were in Dalmarnock and later also Parkhead.  At the same time as building the Forth Bridge, Arrol’s company also successfully re-built the Tay Bridge and constructed the steel frame of Tower Bridge in London.

One of the more unusual people who worked on the construction of the Forth Bridge was Japanese engineer Kaichi Watanabe, who had studied under the Scottish engineer, Henry Dyer, in the Faculty of Technology of the University of Tokyo.  He later studied at the University of Glasgow and then worked as a construction foreman on the Forth Bridge.  He is famous for appearing in a photograph as the central part of a ‘human cantilever’ demonstrating the engineering principles of the bridge.  This photograph can now be seen under the ‘20’ on the Bank of Scotland £20 note.

Notes for editors:


  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.


  • The Year of Creative Scotland began on January 1, 2012 and will spotlight and celebrate Scotland’s cultural and creative strengths on a world stage. Through a dynamic and exciting year-long programme of activity celebrating our world-class events, festivals, culture and heritage, the year puts Scotland’s culture and creativity in the international spotlight with a focus on cultural tourism and developing the events industry and creative sector in Scotland. More information about the programme can be found at: www.visitscotland.com/creative

  • The Year of Creative Scotland is a Scottish Government initiative led in partnership by EventScotland, VisitScotland, Creative Scotland and VOCAL. More information and resources to help businesses engage with Year of Creative Scotland are available at  www.visitscotland.org/yearofcreativescotland-toolkit

                                                  Year of Creative Scotland 2012


For further information


John MacNeil
Media Relations Manager
Communications and Media
0131 668 8600 or 07854 366 827
john.macneil@scotland.gsi.gov.uk