Scottish Cabinet papers 2006: Why ministers rejected variable charges on Forth Road Bridge

Plans to replace tolls on the Forth Road Bridge with road-user charging, including higher costs for lone drivers, were rejected partly because of the "divisiveness" of the board then in charge of the crossing.
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In 2005, the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) – made up mainly of councillors from Edinburgh and Fife – announced plans to scrap the existing £1 toll and introduce variable rates depending on the number of passengers and time of day. Single-occupancy vehicles would have faced a £3 charge at peak times.

The then Transport Minister Tavish Scott reported FETA's application to Cabinet on March 1, 2006. He said: "I have considered this application and for a number of reasons it should, on balance, be rejected at this stage.

Road-user charging plans for the Forth Road Bridge were rejected.  Photo: Ian Rutherford.Road-user charging plans for the Forth Road Bridge were rejected.  Photo: Ian Rutherford.
Road-user charging plans for the Forth Road Bridge were rejected. Photo: Ian Rutherford.
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"More up-front improvements are required before an increase in the tolls; and the divisiveness of the FETA board on tolling issues puts the road-user charging process and development costs at risk.

"The option of toll increases should be left open, both for future demand management purposes at pinch points in the network, and for the potential funding of any replacement crossing."

All tolls were abolished the following year after the SNP won the 2007 Holyrood election.

Problems with corrosion on the bridge had been discovered in 2004 and ministers and officials were looking at what to do – the new SNP government would decide to build a new crossing in December 2007.

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The March 1, 2006 Cabinet meeting heard a technical audit of the bridge had found no immediate safety concerns, but if the corrosion could not be slowed it may have to close to HGVs in 2013-18 and to cars 2019-24.

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