Archive for May 23rd, 2007

It looks like the tolls we pay to cross the Forth and Tay road bridges may be scrapped.    It is in the SNP manifesto, and will probably attract enough support from other parties to get this through.    The Greens will be pretty angry though, and they are supposed to be in partnership (though short of a formal coalition) with the Nationalists.

This will be a popular move with bridge users, but it does raise some important questions.     We already know that the bridge is needing costly repairs, and that unless corrosion problems in the main cables can be addressed, the bridge will have to close, first to lorries, then all traffic.     Replacing the main cables is an option, but as this has not been done before, we are in unknown territory in terms of feasibility and cost.    One thing is certain – it won’t be cheap.

The bridge has only just been fitted out with a massive new Toll Plaza costing millions.    This is trialling cashless systems at present, and there have also been trials with cameras that can tell how many passengers a car has inside, with a view to charging less for a well-filled car.     The new Toll Plaza could well become a very expensive white elephant overnight.

Making it free will raise other issues:   how will removing the tolls affect congestion?    How many jobs will be lost?    Will we still need traffic control at the south end of the bridge?

If this goes through, there will be the big question of how to pay for the massive maintenance bills.    The current resurfacing of the northbound carriageway is costing over £3 million.   There is the recent investment in the Toll Plaza to be explained away, and presumably redundancies to handle.   The bridge employs over 100 staff.

This is before we consider a new crossing (please let it be a tunnel).

There are certainly two sides to £1 coin that we car drivers currently pay to cross the river Forth.

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