THE battle for control of the Forth bridges – a contract worth up to £60 million – is set to ignite after three rival contractors were shortlisted to run the crossings.
A trio of companies is now vying for the lucrative five-year contract to inspect and maintain both the Forth Road Bridge as well as the new Queensferry Crossing and adjacent road network.
The contract could be extended for a further five years.
The move will see control of the crossings taken out of public hands and transferred into the private sector.
The competing companies are Amey LG Ltd, Ringway-Jacobs-Cofiroute (a consortium of Cofiroute SA, Jacobs UK Ltd and Ringway Infrastructure Services Ltd); and Scotland TranServ (a consortium of Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering Ltd and Mouchel Limited).
Transport Scotland will now hold a “competitive dialogue process” with each firm in a bid to seek best value and ensure “high quality delivery” with the successful bidder expected to be announced next November.
Transport Minister Keith Brown said the move was an “important step” with the Forth Bridges Operating Company set to begin work in June 2015.
He said: “The Forth bridges are a vital part of the connectivity of the trunk road network.
“The contract includes protection of terms and conditions for all existing staff, and will seek to ensure opportunities for apprenticeships in the local community.”
But Lawrence Marshall, the outspoken former chairman of Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) – which currently operates the Forth Road Bridge – said that while privatising control of the bridges may be a “step forward” for the Scottish Government it was “regressive in a democratic and publicly accountable Scotland”.
He said: “I’m not interested in who these companies are frankly because they only show contempt for the principle of local democracy.
“Local government built the bridge itself in the 1960s and it has been taken away from local control and been privatised.
“In a democratic Scotland we should not be taking powers away from local bodies that have a much greater understanding of matters close to them and then privatise the whole affair so that we are going to spend public money lining the pockets of private firms.”
FETA currently employs some 70 staff. The operating company is expected to increase this by about 20 once the new crossing opens by the end of 2016.
Councillor Lesley Hinds, the current FETA convener, said the crossings were “crucial for the economies of Edinburgh and Fife” and vowed to leave the organisation in rude health.
“We have always believed we should continue as a public body but I’m going to ensure that we leave the bridge and this organisation in a robust condition that is fit for purpose while protecting our staff and their employment terms and conditions.”