Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP has today set out the key questions that an inquiry into the closure of the Forth Road Bridge must answer.
In a letter to Holyrood Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee Chair Jim Eadie, Mr Rennie identified key questions that need to be answered in the course of an inquiry. These include:
- whether existing maintenance and inspection regimes were appropriate to protect motorists
- whether external peer review mechanisms were in place to confirm decisions on major repair works;
- what contingency travel plans were in place ahead of the closure to minimise disruption for motorists;
- And what changes are required to reduce the likelihood of future extended bridge closures.
Mr Rennie also urged the Committee to take evidence from Barry Colford and Alistair Andrew, the previous chief operating officers for the Forth Road Bridge.
The Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee confirmed this week that they will examine options for conducting an inquiry into the issues that have led to the closure of the Forth Road Bridge.
In his letter, Mr Rennie said:
I was pleased to hear the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee will next week examine options for conducting an inquiry into the issues that have led to the closure of the Forth Road Bridge.
The closure of the bridge has caused massive inconvenience for people across Fife and the Lothians. The financial cost to businesses has been significant. Reports that have emerged over the past week regarding maintenance budgets and missed opportunities for repair work underline the need for a wide-ranging inquiry.
The committee would have my full support if you choose to pursue a parliamentary inquiry. I would encourage you to ensure that any investigation is wide ranging and takes evidence from a number of key people.
In particular, I would urge the committee to hear evidence from Barry Colford and Alistair Andrews, the chief bridge operating officers before the transfer of the maintenance contract to Amey in 2014.
In addition, I should be grateful if the committee would ensure that the following issues are considered. These are key questions which must be answered.
1) Whether the maintenance regimes in place under FETA and now Amey are appropriate to protect motorists using the bridge;
2) Whether there are gaps within the bridge inspection regime that could have contributed to the current problems;
3) What impact the reduction in capital budgets and the objective of minimising disruption to the flow of traffic over the bridge had on decisions made
4) Whether the privatisation of the management of the bridge had any impact on the maintenance
5) Whether the loss of key personnel when Amey took on responsibility for the bridge had a detrimental impact
6) Whether external peer review mechanisms were in place to ensure that maintenance decisions taken by bridge authorities were appropriate;
7) What contingency plans were in place for transport ahead of the closure of the bridge;
8) Whether any contingency travel plans were implemented quickly and effectively and if opportunities to reduce disruption were missed;
9) Whether any compensation schemes for businesses affected by the closure are appropriate and sufficient;
10) What changes are required to the current safety and maintenance protocols to ensure as best possible that future problems can be dealt with without the need for an extended bridge closure.
The Scottish public deserves answers to these questions and I ask if members will agree to consider them as part of a formal inquiry.
I would suggest that the inquiry should not begin until after the bridge has been repaired and reopened.
I look forward to your response.
Willie Rennie MSP