FORTH BRIDGE COMMITTEE URGED TO THINK TWICE ON BILL PLAN

The Scottish Green MSPs today warned that the Forth Crossing Bill Committee, meeting for the first time this week, (1) must consider all the options, including outright rejection of the Scottish Government’s unpopular proposals. (2) The party cites a report from SPICe, published last week, which explains that even the limited remedial work currently ongoing to the existing Forth Road Bridge could secure a lifespan for it of “several decades”. (3)

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“SNP Ministers appear fixated on this deeply unpopular and entirely unnecessary scheme. It’s time for the other parties on this Committee to find their backbone, and give proper consideration to an outright rejection of this Bill, or at the very least a delay until the facts are in.

“If they fail, billions of pounds of public money will be blown by SNP Ministers who still refuse to contemplate just fixing the existing bridge for little more than a twentieth of the price. The next Scottish Government will be operating on tighter and tighter budgets as the effects of the recession unwind, and this vanity project will result in other transport schemes and even school buildings or hospitals being cancelled right across Scotland.

“The most astonishing thing is the timetable for Parliament to consider the Government’s proposals. It seems designed solely to give Alex Salmond a few photo-ops just before the 2011 election, but if we delay by just a few months we can make the final decision once we have the engineering reports back on the existing bridge. Ministers risk committing billions of pounds on a new bridge, only to be told that we could keep using the existing one for many years to come.”

Notes

1. The Committee has been established with an MSP from every party except the Greens. For more information on their work, see:

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/s3/committees/forthXbill/index.htm

2. YouGov polled 1114 Scottish adults about this decision between the 26th and the 28th of October last year. The question asked was as follows:

As you may know, the Forth Road Bridge is deteriorating, and action will need to be taken to ensure a continued road link across the eastern Firth of Forth. The Scottish Government has proposed building a new bridge at an estimated cost of up to £2,300m which it will pay for using public Scottish funds, but borrow initially from the UK government in order to help spread the cost.

According to a report by the Forth Estuary Transport Authority, the existing Forth Road Bridge could be repaired, rather than replaced, for an estimated cost of up to £122m.

Those in favour of REPLACING the bridge argue that it needs to be widened, to reduce congestion, and that a new windshield should be built to protect travellers. Those in favour of REPAIRING the bridge argue that replacing the bridge altogether would put an unnecessary burden on public funds.

Which ONE of the following statements comes closer to your view?

The Scottish Government should REPAIR the existing bridge: 57% The Scottish Government should REPLACE the existing bridge: 34% Don’t know: 10%

3. The report is available here:

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/research/briefings-10/SB10-17.pdf

It states that:

“Were the dehumidification system to stop further corrosion and loss of strength in the main cables, then the Forth Road Bridge could have a life span measured in several decades, or at least long enough to postpone taking any decision on a new crossing for some time without the concern that there may be a period where a crossing would not be available.”