A £4.4 MILLION compensation battle between council leaders in Edinburgh and the Scottish Government has broken out over changes arising from the new Forth crossing.
The Forth Estuary Transport Authority (Feta), which operates the Forth Road Bridge, will be abolished under legislation currently passing through Holyrood and its role taken over by a company that will manage both road crossings over the Forth.
However, Edinburgh council fears it could be left with liabilities of more than £4m from almost 200 compensation claims for noise, vibration and smells
relating to work on approach roads.
Feta, a non-profit company, had always reimbursed the city council for all costs incurred by previous contracts.
The Scottish Government has agreed to cover about £600,000 costs still outstanding from road links associated with the crossing once Feta is disbanded. This includes £93,000 for compensation claims arising from the roadworks.
But council officials fear the cost of outstanding claims could be much higher and, unless the Scottish Government agrees to cover the liabilities, the local
authority could end up footing the bill.
The multi-million-pound row will come before MSPs this week, when they scrutinise new laws being introduced, which set out the management regime for both the new bridge and the
Edinburgh City Council was behind the existing M9 spur extension and A90 upgrading as an agent for Feta, a submission to Holyrood’s infrastructure committee reveals, and the local authority has retained responsibility for issues relating to this contract. A number of costs have yet to be settled over land acquisition and compensation claims, as well as other areas.
“To date, 180 such [compensation] claims have been received with a combined value of
approximately £4.4m,” the submission from the council states.
“It is also possible that other outstanding costs may exceed the values currently estimated.
“The council would therefore seek a formal commitment that Scottish ministers will re-imburse all costs incurred by the council in connection with this contract following the dissolution of Feta.”
The new bridge is due to be completed in 2016 and will include a new 3.1km section of motorway and dual carriageway special road around the west
and south of South Queensferry joining the A90 and M9 spur.
The council also fears it could lose its influence over decision-making on issues surrounding the new bridges when Feta is scrapped.
Four councillors from Edinburgh currently sit on the Feta board and one of these convenes the body every odd year.
“These decisions can have significant impacts on both public transport and general traffic, with consequent economic effects on the city of Edinburgh, as well as causing localised impact for residents in the Queensferry area,” the council states.
A new Forth Bridge Forum (FBF) has been set up, but only council officials are able to set out concerns in this new body.
The council says it is “essential” councillors are allowed to sit on the forum, but there are concerns it only meets quarterly, whereas Feta holds board meetings every two months.
Barry Colford, chief engineer and bridgemaster at Feta, will tell MSPs this week that the body should have survived to manage the new bridge, as well as the existing one.
Last Friday, transport minister Keith Brown revealed that a road junction that formed a key part of the new Forth bridge was completed two months early and £20m under budget.
A Scottish Government spokesman said last night: “Transport Scotland and Feta officials meet regularly to discuss and review budgetary matters and FETAS capital programme.
“Whilst the current liability relating to the A8000 is £600,000, we await evidence to the committee this week with interest and will respond to the points raised once we have had the opportunity to examine these in detail.”