Three years without a bridge
THE new Forth crossing may not be completed until 2022, three years after the threatened complete closure of the Forth Road Bridge, The Scotsman has learned.
Transport Scotland has advertised a 15-year contract for project managers to spearhead the 1 billion-plus scheme.
The Scottish Executive agency yesterday insisted it still expected the crossing to be finished within 11.5 years, but said 15 years was a "prudent contractual time-scale that allows for the flexibility a project of this scale requires".
The news triggered alarm bells among business and motoring groups, which said delays of such a magnitude were unacceptable. Ron Hewitt, the chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: "It beggars belief that we are entertaining a 15-year timescale for a project that is absolutely critical to Scotland's economic future."
Serious corrosion to the main cables of the Forth Road Bridge, which is reducing its strength, could mean a lorry ban as early as the end of 2013, and complete closure in 2019 if repairs are unsuccessful. The Scottish Cabinet approved a new crossing in February, when it narrowed the options to three corridors close to the existing bridge.
The move came after senior ministers gave the green light to the project late last year, just weeks after The Scotsman launched a campaign for an immediate commitment to the scheme.
But whoever forms the next Holyrood administration will have to decide whether to build a bridge or tunnel, its exact route and how it will be funded.
The Scottish National Party has pledged to give an early go-ahead to the project and to "do all we can to fast-track the planning and parliamentary process". However, the Greens, who are in discussions with the SNP, said they would only support a new crossing if the existing bridge could not be repaired or maintained - and this had yet to be proven.
The Executive said details about the crossing were not expected to be decided until "early summer", after two final background reports are received from Transport Scotland next month.
The agency is seeking firms for a 30-60 million "multiple disciplinary management consultancy commission", from late this autumn for 15 years. The world's leading consultants are expected to compete for the contract, whose winner will run the crossing project until its completion.
The chosen firm's role will include detailed preparation and design work, the competition for the construction contract and supervising building work as it progresses. Jacobs Babtie is performing a similar role for the 120 million second Kincardine bridge further up the Forth, which is due for completion next year, although its 5.5 million contracts also include earlier stages of the project.
Neil Greig, the head of policy in Scotland for the Institute of Advanced Motorists' Motoring Trust, said: "I am pleased that things are moving forward, but it is worrying that they are looking at a possible longer timescale, when the potential lorry ban in 2013 is the date they should clearly have in mind."
A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said: "We are still working to the indicative timescales of between nine and 11.5 years. It is standard practice to build in flexibility in contracts of this type." She said starting the recruitment of the main project consultant now was to ensure no time was lost in completing the project.
BRIDGING THE TIME GAP
• THE new Forth crossing may not be completed until 2022, three years after the threatened complete closure of the Forth Road Bridge.
• Transport Scotland has advertised a 15-year contract for project managers to spearhead the 1 billion-plus scheme. It expects the crossing to take between nine and 11.5 years to complete, but said flexibility was "prudent".
• However, Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and the Institute of Advanced Motorists' Motoring Trust said the project was too critical for such leeway. Serious corrosion to the main cables of the Forth Road Bridge, could mean a lorry ban as early as the end of 2013 and complete closure in 2019, if repairs are unsuccessful.
• The Scottish Cabinet approved a new crossing in February.
The next administration will have to decide whether to build a bridge or tunnel, its route and how it will be funded.
• The SNP has pledged to "do all we can to fast-track the planning and parliamentary process".
• However, its potential allies, the Greens, will only support a new crossing if the existing bridge cannot be repaired or maintained.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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