TEN miles of public roads around the Forth Road Bridge are be handed to a private company to operate alongside the new and existing crossings.
Transport Scotland is to include the network of approach roads in the contract which it puts out to tender for management of both the current bridge and the Forth Replacement Crossing.
It means responsibility for the M9 spur from Kirkliston and a long stretch of the M90 in Fife, both currently part of the trunk road network, together with part of the A90, currently within the remit of Edinburgh City Council, will be transferred to the private contractor which wins the tender for the new crossings.
Ownership of the roads and bridges will remain with Transport Scotland, but politicians and residents today voiced concerns.
The Scottish Government announced in November that the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (Feta), which runs the existing bridge and was expecting to assume responsibility for the new crossing, would be abolished and management for both crossings offered to the private sector.
Ministers said Feta’s 70 staff would be transferred to the new contractor. But opposition politicians argued the move meant the loss of local accountability and accused the government of centralisation and privatisation.
Lothians Labour MSP Sarah Boyack said: “This raises some pretty fundamental questions. Ministers need to give us some clarity on how the roads are going to be operated, what the costs are going to be and what impact they are going to have on users of the bridge.”
She said the contract for the new £2.3 billion crossing had been rushed through by ministers last year ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections without proper scrutiny by MSPs.
“We said at the time we wanted to find out more detail about the project. There was no democratic oversight or parliamentary accountability.”
Edinburgh transport convener Lesley Hinds said: “I have previously voiced my concerns that Feta is to be dissolved and its functions centralised, and the contract for operating the bridge will be put out to tender.
“I’m concerned the approach roads are now also to be included in this contract and I shall be asking questions about what the implications are for the residents of Edinburgh and particularly those in Queensferry and Kirkliston.”
Terry Airlie, secretary of Queensferry and district community council said the existing Feta bridge team had established good working relations with the local community but there was no guarantee this would continue.
Transport Scotland said the new contract would be similar to the existing one held by road maintenance company BEAR.