Study claims new Forth bridge could cost more than £1bn
A NEW Forth road bridge will cost at least £500 million to build and could top £1 billion if it also carries trains, consultants revealed yesterday.
The crossing would be built just west of the existing road bridge and could be open in nine years’ time, a new feasibility study into the long-planned scheme has concluded.
However, the report is likely to reignite fierce debate over the project, which raged until it was shelved when Labour came to power in 1997.
The council-run Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA), which operates the road bridge, commissioned an update of previous work because the existing crossing is struggling to cope with steadily increasing traffic. It is carrying 24 million vehicles a year - twice its design capacity.
Fife Council strongly supports a new bridge - as it did ten years ago - but its Edinburgh counterpart said it was too early to take a decision. The Scottish Executive said it had no plans for a new bridge, while environmental groups have pledged to relaunch an opposition campaign.
The scheme may now be included in new transport strategies for the area, which FETA leaders hope would provide further backing for their case.
Faber Maunsell, the consultants, said a new road bridge would cost 300 million, with approach roads adding a further 200 million.
A wider bridge, to accommodate trams along the middle, would push up the basic cost to 360 million, and to 398 million if the trams ran on a lower deck.
However, extra strengthening that would be required to enable trains to use the bridge would see the cost rise to 580 million, with up to an extra 500 million for approach roads and tunnels.
The rail option was included because extra capacity may be required in the future in addition to that of the Forth Bridge.
Mike Rumney, FETA’s convener and a Fife councillor, said: "A new crossing is imperative and inevitable, and it is vital that work starts as soon as possible."
However, Andrew Burns, Edinburgh City Council’s executive member for transport, said: "It has its place as a long-term aspiration, but there are many other projects to be completed first."
These include upgrading the A8000 between the bridge and the M9, and new roads in Fife.
David Spaven, the chairman of the public transport campaigners TRANSform Scotland, said another bridge would simply generate more traffic.
He said: "Global oil production is expected to peak in a decade, and [we] have to make more sensible choices now."
The Executive said that it had "no current plans" for a new crossing, but that it would be reviewed by 2007.
A spokeswoman said: "We recognise the importance for the Fife economy of good transport links and reducing congestion on the Forth Road Bridge, and our immediate priority is improving public transport."
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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