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Kessock Bridge at Inverness set to hit 40th anniversary of its opening this month


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Construction of the Kessock Bridge. Picture: Andrew Fraser / www.ambaile.org.uk.
Construction of the Kessock Bridge. Picture: Andrew Fraser / www.ambaile.org.uk.

THIS year marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Kessock Bridge.

The first passengers crossed the new bridge on Monday, July 19, 1982, with the Inverness and Highland News reporting on July 22: “It’s open: Traffic flows on Kessock Bridge.

“At 5.50am on Monday morning police positioned in the Longman, Inverness and North Kessock, checked their watches, signalled by radio and led the first public traffic on the Kessock Bridge.

“As the sun rose brilliantly in the east the moment long awaited in the North had arrived.”

Throughout Scotland during the 1950s and 1960s (as with the rest of the United Kingdom) there was a boom in road building, infrastructure development and improvements in communications. Other notable bridges had already been constructed in Scotland such as the Forth Road Bridge and the Tay Road Bridge.

The building of the Kessock Bridge was part of the wider improvements to the A9 providing better access to the north of Scotland.

This included a proposal to build bridges over the Moray Firth, the Cromarty Firth and the Dornoch Firth – “the crossing of the three firths”.

This was a project put forward by Reay Clarke, a farmer from Tain; John Smith, a senior lecturer of Geography at University of Aberdeen and later Pat Hunter Gordon, former Head of A. I. Welders.

These men argued that by crossing the three firths with bridges, rather than constructing longer roads which followed the coastline, it would be cheaper, it would cut journey times, would be better for farming land and in turn be more beneficial to residents, business owners and tourists.

The Crossing of the Three Firths, an information booklet outlining the proposals at the time.
The Crossing of the Three Firths, an information booklet outlining the proposals at the time.

It was a long-fought battle to get the bridges built and it almost didn’t happen. The Highlands and Islands Development Board were resistant to these proposals and after reading what Clarke, Hunter Gordon and Smith put forward still believed that the longer route, with no bridges, 0was the better option.

Eventually though, after a General Election (and change in government) and possibly due to the three bridges option being the most cost effective, the crossing of the three firths proposal was accepted and construction could finally begin.

The Kessock Bridge was the second to be built, with construction commencing in 1978. This bridge needed to be high so that ships could still pass under it from the Moray Firth and into the Beauly Firth. The fact that the area was subject to high winds led to extensive testing before building began.

Construction of the Kessock Bridge. Picture: Andrew Fraser / www.ambaile.org.uk.
Construction of the Kessock Bridge. Picture: Andrew Fraser / www.ambaile.org.uk.

Also, the Kessock Bridge is built across the Great Glen Fault Line and so hydraulic seismic buffers had to be included in case of any future earth tremors.

– An exhibition of models, film and material relating to the construction of the Kessock Bridge will be on display at the Highland Archive Centre on Friday, August 5 from 10am to 12pm.

The models and film will continue to be on display until Friday, August 19, which the public can visit during the archive centre’s opening hours: Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10am to 4.30pm.

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