Metal sections of Forth Road Bridge may be built in China

SECTIONS of the new Forth Road Bridge would be built in China and shipped over to Scotland under plans being considered by transport chiefs – when the work could be done less than a mile away.

The Evening News has learned that Transport Scotland is looking at the move in a bid to save money on the project, which is expected to cost up to 4.2 billion.

It is thought panels and deck units of the new cable-stayed bridge would be fabricated in China and then shipped to the Forth for assembly.

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Unions and opposition politicians today hit out at the plans pointing out that Rosyth Dockyard, which is close to the new crossing, has a history of metal fabrication. But Transport Scotland today insisted that no decisions had yet been taken on where to build the bridge's decks.

Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP John Park, a former Rosyth Dockyard union official, said: "This is a real missed opportunity for Scotland's workers.

"The proximity of the new crossing to the dockyard at Rosyth simply highlights that we already have an excellent skills base here in Scotland.

"The new Forth crossing could be an ideal opportunity for the Scottish Government to create opportunities for skilled jobs here in Scotland so I am obviously disappointed to hear that sections of the bridge may be constructed overseas."

The Babcock-owned Rosyth Dockyard is well known for its naval shipbuilding but the yard has diversified its interests in recent years.

One such project was fabricating sections of the huge roof for Heathrow Airport's new Terminal Five. The yard recently won a share of a 3bn Government aircraft carrier contract which will secure work at Rosyth for the next decade.

Kenny Jordan, regional secretary of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, said: "Obviously a lot of this would depend on the timing of the work and whether there is the capacity at the dockyard given the new carrier contracts.

"But with any job we would want to see it kept within the UK and bolstering our own manufacturing sector.

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"We need to encourage more workers into our skilled sector, more apprenticeships and this is really the sort of work which would help sustain the industry."

The new crossing was given the go-ahead last year after ministers ruled it was a cheaper and quicker alternative to a tunnel. It is still not clear how the bridge will be paid for but details are expected to be announced later this year.

Engineer John Carson, who founded the South Queensferry pro-tunnel group ForthTag, said: "I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if it went to China. Shipping costs are so cheap now and they must be looking to save money somehow on this bridge.

"However, if we are heading for a recession, and they go ahead with this project, then it is exactly the right sort of time for keeping this work in Scotland and supporting our own industrial sectors."

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said the ultimate decision on where bridge materials will be sourced from will be up to the successful contractor.

She added: "There are a number of possibilities for the material sourcing and fabrication, and at this early stage in the project no decision has been taken."