Friday 4th September 1964
The Forth Road Bridge, 6156 feet long, and with a centre span of 3300 feet, was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Tens of thousands of spectators turned up to watch the royal cavalcade slowly cross the 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 cut more than an hour off the journey-time by road. The Forth Road Bridge was currently the fourth longest in the world.
Twenty-five Royal Navy ships fired a salute of guns and after a brief opening speech from the Queen there was 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. The remainder of the money came from an Exchequer loan.
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 was painted silver-grey in colour, but work on its final coat was suspended for the opening ceremony.