Forth Rail Bridge

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 2:12 pm on 22nd February 1995.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow 2:12 pm, 22nd February 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has had from the department of offshore engineering at the Heriot Watt university on the condition of the Forth rail bridge.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

No representations from the department of offshore engineering about the condition of the Forth rail bridge have been received.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

Can the Minister help the House by dealing with two questions of fact which somehow eluded the Under-Secretary of State for Transport? In what year did the Health and Safety Executive last conduct an in-depth investigation into the bridge? And what are the qualifications in offshore engineering or the marine environment of those who are giving the advice that all is well with the Forth rail bridge?

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that W. A. Fairhurst, consulting engineers, carried out a review of the painting strategy for ScotRail in 1992 and endorsed ScotRail's method of painting. The company has recently confirmed that Railtrack's strategy is satisfactory.

I cannot state the qualifications of all the engineers concerned off hand, but I have no doubt that Railtrack will have been relying on expert evidence. As the hon. Gentleman heard in the Adjournment debate, the Health and Safety Executive has said that it is satisfied with Railtrack's maintenance programme for the bridge, and that the structural integrity of the bridge is not at risk.

My hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Norris) said that he would make inquiries about the most recent investigation and would contact the hon. Gentleman. The crux of the matter is that the elements of the tubular sections which appear to be most affected by flaking paint are still covered by an undercoat of carboniferous material and black iron oxide which is protecting the structure. It is not at risk, contrary to the scaremongering by some Opposition Members.