THE opening of the Queensferry Crossing next year cannot come quickly enough. The decision to build another 1.7-mile span across the water between Edinburgh and Fife – at a cost of £1.35 billion – was taken after extensive consultation and fears over the health of the first road bridge, completed in 1964.
That decision, originally opposed by many people but finally taken at the end of 2007 by the SNP government, now looks like an extremely wise one.
The idea that a crack just 20mm wide could bring east central Scotland to a halt and potentially cost the Capital’s economy £50m over the Christmas period seems incredible. But it shows the reliance we place on key pieces of infrastructure. The existing bridge will only remain open for police, ambulances and fire crews on “blue light” emergency calls.
The original bridge will in the longer term be used for buses and taxis only. This will reduce the load on the bridge but also provide another incentive for the public to switch to more sustainable modes of transport, because the journey will be quicker.
But it will also provide a back-up when the new bridge – which will have motorway-style hard shoulders – needs to be closed for repairs.
In the short term, the current administration must make every effort to keep Scotland moving. It is welcomed that Edinburgh City Council is to cancel roadworks during this period and other councils in the area must surely follow.
ScotRail must strive to find extra carriages for services crossing the Forth Bridge, even if that means begging and borrowing from other operators in England. The situation has exposed the chronic lack of spare trains in Scotland.
Meanwhile, we must leave it to the engineers and experts to fix the problem as soon as possible, and get Scotland moving again.