No such thing as free lunch or free transport infrastructure

As the Forth Road Bridge drama unfolds and more details about repair management and funding cuts come to light I can’t help thinking of the time when we all paid our £1 toll fee.

Most of us probably welcomed the abolition of the toll as proposed by the SNP in May 2007 only weeks after being elected into government. Yet parliamentary agreement ensued that legislation on mandatory bridge levies had to be revoked thus removing statutory means of raising maintenance funds.

Ironically, the speedy removal of the tolls came less than two years after a major investment in a state-of-the-art upgrade of the Toll Plaza.

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Had it stayed in place, it would by now have generated an estimated revenue of £120 million – a nice cash boost to keeping the bridge in good health. There really is no such thing as a free lunch and in the end election gifts always come at a price.

Regina Erich

Willow Row, Stonehaven

Nicola Sturgeon was infrastructure secretary when the Forth Road Bridge’s maintenance budget was cut by 60 per cent and the scene set for today’s catastrophic situation.

Transport minister Derek Mackay has now admitted that this resulted in the cancellation of repair work that would have replaced the section which forced the bridge’s closure.

The First Minister’s attempt to brazen it out by saying she had “no regrets” will surely backfire because memos exist which show she was warned this would lead to chaos.

Scotland is in dire need of a competent administration which does not divert funds from key areas in education, health and infrastructure to fund needless vanity projects.

Rev Dr John Cameron

Howard Place, St Andrews

At First Minister’s Question Time Nicola Sturgeon tried to dismiss suggestions that cuts in the repair’s budget could have played a part in the critical failure that now is causing travel chaos for a large swathe of Scotland (Ministers gambled on “patch-up” regime of repairs on Forth bridge, 10 December). But the denials from the First Minister and her transport secretary Derek Mackay are sounding rather hollow. Evidence of 2010 proposals of strengthening work that did not proceed and further deferrals of capital works in 2013 clearly show that decisions were being taken based on financial savings.

We are all now paying the cost of short-sighted decisions by politicians and civil servants who should instead have been listening to civil engineering experts. The high volume of usage of the bridge and its age meant that preventative maintenance and strengthening projects should have proceeded when proposed not when budgets allowed.

The value of the Forth Road Bridge is now painfully clear to everyone. There are no excuses for cutting corners and putting this critical piece of our national infrastructure at risk.

Keith Howell

West Linton, Peeblesshire

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Everyone is entitled to an occasional mistake but the SNP lot are abusing that privilege, the Forth Bridge fiasco is just the latest in a long line of errors. This one even vies for pride of place over Salmond’s grand deception of his non-advice on EU membership. Now Nicola Sturgeon has the brass neck to suggest her opponents are playing political games over SNP and the axed repairs. First she and Derek Mackay claim the cancellation had no bearing on the current catastrophic structural failure then a day later Mackay tells the truth, not because he had a sudden attack of humility, no, because he had nowhere left to go. Let’s not forget, SNP MPs and MSPs have learned from Salmond and believe that telling the truth is the same as not getting caught telling a lie. They were caught.

Oh, were we to be allowed a pleasant thought that these ministers of state would follow Lord Byron’s suggestion and gasp their last sigh as they walked over the bridge into the sunset of their career... soon please.

When will their followers see the SNP for what they are, a party of protest not of government.

Stan Hogarth

Palmerston Place, Edinburgh