Trial ferry run following Forth Road Bridge closure

The Maid of the Forth docks at Hawes Pier, South Queensferry, in 2013. The boat was used for a trial commuter crossing on Sunday

The Maid of the Forth docks at Hawes Pier, South Queensferry, in 2013. The boat was used for a trial commuter crossing on Sunday

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A TRIAL ferry crossing from Rosyth to South Queensferry was held on Sunday as transport bosses investigate ways of alleviating the chaos caused by the temporary closure of the Forth Road Bridge.

The owners of the Maid of the Forth, a 225-capacity vessel normally used to take tourists to Inchcolm Abbey, confirmed last night they were in discussions with transport and port authorities over providing a commuter service.

A hovercraft crosses the Forth in 2007 as part of a trial service between Kirkcaldy and Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL

A hovercraft crosses the Forth in 2007 as part of a trial service between Kirkcaldy and Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL

The ferry sailed from the Port of Rosyth to Hawes Pier, with a crossing time of 30 minutes.

The final decision on whether to provide a ferry service rests with Transport Scotland. A spokesman said all options were actively being considered.

“We are in discussions with ferry operators and will consider this in the context of the operation of the travel plan, which we will continue to adjust as necessary,” he said.

Transport minister Derek McKay announced on Friday the Forth Road Bridge will remain closed until January, causing havoc for thousands of commuters.

We are in discussions with ferry operators and will consider this in the context of the operation of the travel plan, which we will continue to adjust as necessary

Transport Scotland spokesman

On a typical weekday, an average of 70,000 vehicles use the crossing and at peak morning time around 6300 vehicles cross the structure southbound.

In a statement posted on Facebook, the owners of the Maid of the Forth said: “The only option available is a Rosyth - Hawes Pier service, which would use the ferry terminal at Rosyth which is owned by Forth Ports.

“We carried out a trial run on Sunday with Transport Scotland, Calmac and Forth Ports to work out logistics. There would have to be additional security and safe passenger walkways set up at Rosyth, buses organised at both ends and ticketing arrangements sorted out.

“There are a lot of different organisations that need to work together to make it work so it is not something we can do on our own. The upshot is that it is definitely possible, but the decision whether it is to go ahead lies with the transport minister at the moment.”

The Queensferry Passage between North and South Queensferry ceased operations in 1964 following the opening of the Forth Road Bridge. Picture: TSPL

The Queensferry Passage between North and South Queensferry ceased operations in 1964 following the opening of the Forth Road Bridge. Picture: TSPL

Stagecoach has ruled out operating a service between Kirkcaldy and Portobello, following a successful trial in 2007, when some 32,000 passengers crossed the Forth via hovercraft.

There was anger from Fife councillors and operators Stagecoach when City of Edinburgh Council refused planning permission for a hovercraft terminal to be built at Portobello in 2011.

The decision led Stagecoach boss Sir Brian Soutar to throw in the towel, declaring he was “scunnered”.

Fife Council had previously backed a plan to build a ferry terminal at a former bus depot on Kirkcaldy Esplanade.

A new firm, Forthfast, was founded in 2014 with the aim of reviving the Stagecoach plans.

In February, Fife Council extended a planning condition requiring the Kirkcaldy bus depot to be demolished, handing Forthfast more time to plan its crossing proposals.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, transport convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “The council has carried out a number of studies and market testing with partners, including Fife Council, exploring the possibility of a cross Forth passenger service, both traditional ferry and hovercraft.

“To date no commercially viable service has been identified but we are happy to engage with any prospective operator and there have been discussions with representatives of Forthfast about their proposal.”

The last regular ferry service between Fife and Lothian, the Queensferry Passage, ended in 1964 following the opening of the Forth Road Bridge.

Previous routes included a rail ferry between Granton and Burntisland.

Scotrail said it was providing an additional 6500 seats following the road bridge’s closure by pulling carriages from other services and taking trains out of refurbishment programmes, increasing its capacity by 40 per cent.

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