As the Christmas getaway gathers pace, Scottish Liberal Democrats have acquired new data showing that the traffic problems which blighted the opening of the new Queensferry Crossing occurred despite lower levels of traffic than normal.
Ministers reported "unprecedented" demand and blamed sightseers for generating large volumes of traffic when the crossing first opened. Now data acquired from Transport Scotland through a freedom of information request has shown that on 6 out of 7 of its first days in operation, traffic crossing northbound over the crossing was actually below the "predicted normal value".
The FOI request also found:
- On 30 August Keith Brown said "the bridge itself is free flowing but there are delays on the approach roads - mainly down to the volume of traffic looking to cross the new bridge." On this day, the volume of northbound traffic on the Queensferry Crossing was measured at 1.2% below normal. Traffic numbers were also significantly lower on the vast majority of surrounding roads;
- Transport Scotland refused to provide details of what work was outstanding when the Queensferry Crossing opened, claiming that the public interest in disclosing this information is trumped by the need to protect commercial interests;
- Transport Scotland could not provide any evidence to support Keith Brown's claim that previous large bridges in Hong Kong and the USA had experienced similar heightened popularity on opening;
- Transport Scotland could not provide any evidence to support Keith Brown's claim that "we always anticipated this huge level of interest".
Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, whose Edinburgh Western constituency is connected to the Queensferry Crossing, commented:
"It is clear now that ministers blagged their way through the traffic chaos that blighted the opening of the Queensferry Crossing.
"We were told that this was due to 'unprecedented' demand but the official figures we have acquired clearly show that was not the case. In fact, in the first week around 7,000 fewer vehicles than normal made the northbound crossing.
"While SNP ministers sought to dine out on the praise associated with the crossing, my constituents and those travelling to and from Fife experienced longer journey times than even the worst days of the Forth Road Bridge.
"I am proud that my constituency boasts this towering new crossing. However, there is no denying that SNP ministers botched its opening and many people ended up at a standstill and struggled to get to work as a result.
"Ministers rushed to open this bridge, which was already months behind schedule, to save face.
"We can only hope that they manage the Christmas getaway traffic better."