Transport bosses accused of 'sham' Forth bridge consultation

TRANSPORT bosses have been accused of carrying out a "sham" consultation with local residents ahead of today's publication of the bill for the new £2 billion Forth crossing.

The bill brings what will be the biggest construction project in Scotland for a generation a step closer, with work due to begin in 2011, but Transport Scotland, the agency charged with overseeing the project, has been accused of failing to listen to the concerns of those who will be affected by building works.

There were also calls today to speed up compensation payments for those living near to the project, with local residents currently being told they must wait until 2017, a year after the new bridge is built, before receiving any money.

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Officials held a series of public exhibitions and consultation exercises during the summer in the run-up to the bill's publication.

Margaret Smith, Lib Dem MSP for Edinburgh West, said many local residents had been left feeling "let down".

She said: "I remain concerned at the impact the project will have on my constituents. In particular, approaching roads are now closer to South Queensferry than in the original plans when there was a direct route out to the M9.

"There are also issues about the impacts of construction on local homes. There remains a lot of anger in the town that Transport Scotland haven't consulted properly and that the Scottish Government haven't listened to the wishes of local residents as the plans have progressed."

She added: "A lot of people feel the consultation has been a sham. Information that has been given out by Transport Scotland has not been as good as it could have been. An awful lot of people feel they have been let down."

Doug Tait, vice-chairman of the residents' group Bridge Replacement Interest Group South (BRIGS), said locals would be "haunted" by problems for years to come, and added: "People are still not clear about how the compensation will work and that would become known until the bill is published.

"People may have to wait seven years or more for compensation, which makes moving house extremely difficult for anyone who wants to get out of the area."

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: "When a bill is introduced we set out full details on the consultation and community engagement that has been undertaken.

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"Parliament and the public will be able to draw their own conclusions on the number of local meetings, the provision of information updates and the number and extent of public exhibitions that have occurred on this project over a sustained period of time."