Transport chiefs admit unwanted Queensferry Crossing traffic increase

Increased traffic on the Queensferry Crossing is "not the direction we want travel to go in", Transport Scotland chiefs admitted to MSPs today.

The Queensferry Crossing opened in 2017 to replace the Forth Road Bridge. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
The Queensferry Crossing opened in 2017 to replace the Forth Road Bridge. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

It followed Scotland on Sunday revealing last month that more than one million extra journeys had been made over the new bridge in the last year.

That came despite ministers pledging that any cross-Forth growth would be by public transport after the replacement for the Forth Road Bridge opened in 2017.

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MSPs were also told today that only nine of 19 planned measures to improve cross-Forth bus travel and other public transport as part of a strategy had yet been completed.

The Forth Road Bridge is now restricted to buses, taxis, walkers and cyclists. Picture: Michael Gillen

These include reserving the Forth Road Bridge for buses, taxis, cyclists and walkers.

Transport Scotland director of transport strategy and analysis Alison Irvine confirmed the traffic figure to the Scottish Parliament's connectivity committee.

She said: "It's not the direction we would want the travel to go in".

'Traffic less than forecast'

However, the Scottish Government agency official said current traffic levels were less than the anticipated increase fuelled by factors such as economic growth.

She said: "Traffic flows are less than we forecast.

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"That does not step away from the fact they are increasing, which is not what we wanted to achieve."

A total of 27.7 million vehicles used the Queensferry Crossing in the year to last October compared to 26.7m the previous year.

Ms Irvine said the new bridge added no additional capacity compared to its predecessor, and there were no intention to use its hard shoulders to ease peak-hour congestion.

She said it was "more reliable and resilient" than the old bridge, such as because of windshielding to avert closures during strong winds.

However, she added: "We have always had a focus on promoting public transport across the corridor.

"We are seeing early signs that the public transport strategy is encouraging more people to travel by sustainable modes."

Ms Irvine said that the public transport measures not being finished was not a failure as some were to be implemented over longer timescales

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'Fantastic success story'

Stagecoach Scotland East, the main bus operator over the Forth Road Bridge, said passenger growth had accelerated to a 17 per cent increase over the last three months.

It forecast the annual total would increase from 4.5m to 6m by next year.

Managing director Douglas Robertson said: "We are seeing a big step change in demand on cross-Forth services.

"It's been a fantastic success story."

He said there had been no significant reduction in journey times but they were now more consistent.

Previous congestion on the Forth Road Bridge could vary them by half an hour.

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City of Edinburgh Council transport and planning manager Ewan Kennedy said adding bus lanes was not the answer because it just moved traffic onto other roads.

Instead, he said travellers must be given a better choice between driving and taking public transport.

Scottish Greens transport spokesman John Finnie said: “This evidence makes clear the Queensferry Crossing has not resolved congestion issues into Edinburgh.

"Why would it? We’ve known since the 1960s that building more roads increases traffic.

“The growth in traffic is just not sustainable and it is clearly impacting on communities.

"The Scottish Government must listen to the experts. Bus lanes and road allocation isn’t going to solve the issue on its own.

“In a climate emergency, there needs to be regular, reliable and integrated public transport so that it becomes the easiest option.

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"That’s why the Scottish Greens propose public ownership and phasing in free bus travel.”

Chris Day, policy adviser at sustainable transport campaigners Transform Scotland, said: Transport Scotland said nine of 19 public transport schemes had been completed.

"We look forward to getting the details.

"The other ten schemes were 'long term'. The crossing was approved in 2007, and the first public transport strategy in 2009, so this is clearly very long term indeed."It was clear even these ten were at an early stage of development, and hopes of funding them rely on the [Transport Scotland] strategic transport projects review or the Edinburgh city region deal.

"So they'll still be competing for funds with many other projects across Scotland."This doesn't look like the balanced 'managed crossing strategy' it was supposed to be."