The new Queensferry Crossing has “more traffic than it can cope with” according to a representative from Transport Scotland.
At a south and west Fife area committee on Wednesday, Scott Lees head of maintenance at Transport Scotland, told councillors that it was clear the bridge had a number of issues, especially around peak time.
Mr Lees said: “It is clear that at peak times, there is more traffic than the bridge can cope with.”
However, he added that while it was a regular complaint, the bridge wasn’t designed to increase capacity. He said: “There is this view that the new bridge was built and there should be no congestion. But it is important to remember that the Queensferry crossing was built as a replacement, it doesn’t increase the provision across the Forth.”
John Russell, bridge operator for Amey, added that some of the traffic congestion was due to driver behaviours.
Mr Russell said: “The rat running – drivers going off and on slip roads to avoid queues – actually add to the problems. And drivers don’t actually gain any time. Even if you skip that line, you’re not even beating the traffic, as you still have to rejoin. It’s completely psychological. If drivers would just stay on the main line, it would move much smoother.”
He added that the traffic light signals had also been changed to hold people at the roundabout in South Queensferry longer to encourage people to stay on the main road.
Cllr Tony Orton asked about opening the Forth Road Bridge, even at just peak times, to ease the congestion.
However, Mr Russell said: “I don’t think you’d get as much benefit as you might think, as the capacity at either ends is very limited, so you’d just be moving the bottle neck somewhere else. If it was a local only route, you might get very limited benefits, but I have no idea how you would manage and enforce that.”
He added that as an act of parliament was passed to change the Forth Road Bridge to a public transport gateway, the legislation would have to be changed before any scheme could go ahead.
Mr Russell was keen to add that the Queensferry Crossing wasn’t over capacity yet, however, there had been an acceleration in the number of cars using the bridge.
He said: “We do around 24 million journeys a year, 80,000 a day across the bridge. It was built to cope with around 90,000, so we’re not at capacity yet. The bridge was built with a ten year plan in mind. However, the Forth Road Bridge was handling about 70,000 a day, so it’s nothing out of the ordinary.”
Both Mr Russell and Mr Lees said that the best way to cope with the traffic was to encourage more people to use public transport.
Mr Lees said that buses operated around 500 journeys a day across the Forth Road Bridge and that he understood there had been some issues with rail, but had heard there had been an increase in five per cent seat availability on the rail journeys across the bridge. However, he did add: “People do have to have confidence in the service before they will use it.”
Cllr Alice McGarry noted that there was some capacity issues at both Halbeath and Ferrytoll park and rides, but that it was something Fife Council were currently looking into.