Firth of Forth (Road Crossing)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:40 am on 21st June 2007.

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Photo of Claire Baker Claire Baker Labour 11:40 am, 21st June 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive what progress is being made in planning for a replacement road crossing for the Forth. (S3O-305)

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

The Forth replacement crossing study has now concluded and Transport Scotland is considering the study findings. A paper is being prepared for the Cabinet to consider options and the associated costs, to allow an early decision on this important project.

Photo of Claire Baker Claire Baker Labour

I am pleased that the minister recognises that it is vital for the economic and social future of Fife and the east of Scotland that planning for a replacement road crossing begins now, and that a situation in which travel to and from Fife is unreasonably restricted is not allowed to develop.

I would like to impress on the minister the importance of consultation with the current bridge workforce on changes and new proposals. Can the minister give me a guarantee that there will be full consultation with the people of Fife on the options for a replacement road crossing?

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

In relation to the changes that have been announced to the tolling regime on the existing bridge, the workforce is at the front of our minds and the Forth Estuary Transport Authority has taken appropriate steps with regard to consultation.

On the new crossing, whatever its nature might be, we have to take the people of Fife and the people on this side of the estuary along with us. The project is a strategic one that we have to get right and for which we have a tightly constrained timetable. Consultation will be an important part of taking the project forward.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party

I congratulate the cabinet minister for moving this issue forward quickly. I look forward to an announcement about the conclusions of the study being made in the near future.

Does the minister agree that we are so late coming to conclusions because, in November 2005, the former First Minister said that it was a particularly stupid idea to start making plans? If that had not been his position, we could have been a lot further forward than we are at the moment.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I thank the member for her promotion of me to the Cabinet. One never knows—some day.

At this stage, it is important to examine some of the timetable constraints that we are faced with. It is possible—although this is the earliest date—that the bridge will have to close to heavy goods vehicles in 2013. Work continues, and we hope that that will not be the case. If we can proceed at the pace that we seek, it may be possible to start construction in 2016. I am determined that we will have no further delays in addressing an issue that is important for Fife and the Lothians.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

Will the minister give a commitment to ensure that the proposals for the new Forth crossing include options for public transport? Does he accept that the new crossing gives us the chance not just to maintain vital road access across the Forth but to increase capacity for public transport, particularly given the pressure on the Forth rail bridge and the need to reduce congestion and carbon emissions?

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

The importance of public transport is very much part of our consideration of the replacement crossing. The member is likely to know that there are issues with signalling on the existing railway bridge; we are addressing them, following up on the work of the previous Administration. She may be assured that, as well as provide a new road crossing, we want public transport to be improved between Fife and the Lothians.