New Forth bridge: Taxpayers won’t fund payouts

Work has been ongoing to prepare for the new Forth bridge. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Work has been ongoing to prepare for the new Forth bridge. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Council chiefs have been formally assured that taxpayers in Edinburgh will not have to fund compensation claims from roadworks linked to the new Forth road bridge.

• MSPs give Edinburgh City Council guarantee over funding fears.

• Local authority feared it would be liable for compensation over disturbance.

Transport Minister Keith Brown told Holyrood that he has now sent a formal communication to City of Edinburgh Council on the issue.

The local authority has said it fears it may be liable for between £93,000 and £4.4 million to compensate for noise, disturbance, vibration, smell and fumes caused by the construction of the M9 spur to the new bridge.

MSPs on the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee called for the council to be given a formal assurance on the matter.

Mr Brown said he has already provided assurances on this matter.

But he said: “The committee recommended a formal communication be issued to the council before the passage of the Bill on this issue.”

Transfer

The Transport Minister said he did this today, assuring Edinburgh Council that part of the Forth Road Bridge Bill would transfer liabilities from Forth Estuary Transport Authority (Feta) to the Scottish Government.

Committee convener Maureen Watt said the Bill is an “important element of the Scottish Government’s strategy to upgrade the Forth crossing transport network”.

The legislation will pave the way for a single operator to manage and maintain both the new crossing and the existing road bridge. Feta would be dissolved, with its assets and liabilities transferred to Scottish ministers and staff transferred to the new operator.

Labour wants companies who have been caught blacklisting trade-union workers to be banned from competing for the operator contract.

Bargaining

Transport spokeswoman Elaine Murray said: “Assurances were sought that no company that has been engaged in blacklisting workers for trade-union membership and activity would not be awarded the contract. The committee did receive an assurance that the contract would guarantee workers the right to trade-union membership and collective bargaining.

“On these benches, we probably would like the contract to go further and actually exclude companies which are known to have practised blacklisting in the past.”

Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone raised concerns about the potential for one operator to manage the bridge for up to 15 years.

Concern

“A five-year contract with potential add-ons extending up to 10 years does make this a substantial contract, and one that will both attract interest and give the winner of the contract an opportunity to carry out its responsibilities properly and seriously,” he said.

“However, the suggestion that emerged in evidence that there may be management cycles for the structure which might exceed 10 years, up to 15 years, does give me cause for concern.”