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Forth Road Bridge closure illustrates folly of removal of local accountability

Published 29 January 2016 by Colin Howden

Transform Scotland has published its response to the Scottish Parliament’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee inquiry into the December 2015 closure of the Forth Road Bridge.

Our evidence paper was prepared by our board member Lawrence Marshall, who was chair of the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) from 2004-06 (that is, prior to the decision to reduce investment in maintenance of the bridge).

Our evidence paper concludes that the enforced closure of the bridge in December 2015 illustrates the following points:

  • The removal of a locally-managed, ring-fenced funding stream for the operation and maintenance of the bridge;
  • The removal of local accountability. Scrutiny of the now centralised and privatised operation and maintenance regime is now the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament – which has already many other tasks to which to attend;
  • The prioritisation by the Scottish Government of new infrastructure (especially road) over the maintenance of that already in place;
  • The relative under-investment in the parallel rail service which struggled to cope with the increased demands placed upon it during the closure, and;
  • The abolition of one important tool – tolls – in traffic demand management on the cross-Forth road network and abandonment of proposed “smart” tolling whilst, rightly in our view, continuing to implement a dierentiated peak and off-peak pricing regime on the adjacent rail line.