Keep road bridge managed by FETA

CALLS have been made for the management of the Forth Road Bridge and the new Forth Crossing to remain local.

Queensferry and District Community Council (QDCC) have voiced concerns over proposals to put the management of the bridges out to tender. The QDCC want the new Forth crossing and existing road bridge to continue to be managed by a locally based organisation.

The move comes ahead of an announcement expected next month by the Transport Minister, Keith Brown MSP, on the future management arrangements once the new bridge opens in 2016.

It is understood the options could include putting either or both bridges out to tender to be operated by a private company on behalf of Transport Scotland, an arrangement already used for Scotland’s trunk roads, with the future of the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) uncertain.

But Martin Gallagher, vice-chairman of QDCC said: “The Forth crossing is too important to be simply contracted out as another trunk road and managed remotely. A dedicated, accountable, locally based management attuned to the needs of the users and communities to who the crossing is so vital is in everyone’s best interests.”

“The Forth Road Bridge is a truly unique structure with a unique and complex set of challenges. Specifically to Queensferry, the Forth Road Bridge is not just a road or another piece of infrastructure: it is part of the community. The operation of the bridge has a huge impact on everyday life in the community and in recent years QDCC has developed a positive working relationship with the current operator, FETA, to ensure the needs of local residents are taken into account as well as those of bridge users when undertaking essential work on the structure.”

Mr Gallagher believes a dedicated management team based locally and accountable to surrounding communities will be absolutely vital in ensuring this co-operation continues with the running of the new bridge as part of a managed crossing strategy.

The community council has since written to the Transport Minister to urge him to ensure local accountability and accessibility is retained.

Edinburgh West MSP Colin Keir has also defended calls for FETA to remain by saying: “My understanding is that considerations are being made at Government level regarding FETA’s future role with the new bridge. A contractor for the new Forth Replacement Crossing doesn’t need to be identified until 2013 but certainly the skills and experience of FETA staff should be recognised.”

Meanwhile a Transport Scotland spokesperson said work has progressed to allow both Transport Scotland and FETA to plan more effectively for the future management and maintenance of the Forth Road Bridges.

He said: “Recognising the skills and experience of FETA staff, and the role that FETA might play in respect of the new bridge is a key consideration within the development of this work.”