The closure of the Forth Road Bridge has caused huge difficulties for people in Edinburgh and Fife.
With weeks of work remaining before the bridge is due to re-open, it is vital that we do what we can to ensure that disruption is minimised. I have been in contact with hundreds of people since the closure was announced to hear their concerns, and have pressed the Transport Minister to do more to help drivers who have been affected.
Today, the Minister has announced a partial lifting on some of the restrictions on the A985 that were causing real problems for people in Fife. This is welcome. But there is still more to be done. People living near the priority route are still unable to use it at off-peak times. This restriction alone is causing huge difficulties and the Minister needs to look at it again.
Given the level of disruption that has been experienced, I have also been clear that we need a proper inquiry into the closure. I have written to the chair of a Holyrood committee who will be examining the case for an inquiry next week, setting out the 10 questions that I think need to be answered. These are:
- Whether the maintenance regimes in place under FETA and now Amey are appropriate to protect motorists using the bridge;
- Whether there are gaps within the bridge inspection regime that could have contributed to the current problems;
- 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
- Whether the privatisation of the management of the bridge had any impact on the maintenance
- Whether the loss of key personnel when Amey took on responsibility for the bridge had a detrimental impact
- Whether external peer review mechanisms were in place to ensure that maintenance decisions taken by bridge authorities were appropriate;
- What contingency plans were in place for transport ahead of the closure of the bridge;
- Whether any contingency travel plans were implemented quickly and effectively and if opportunities to reduce disruption were missed;
- Whether any compensation schemes for businesses affected by the closure are appropriate and sufficient;
- 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 have been doing my best to provide as much up to date information as possible through my Facebook page. If you want regular updates on the repair works and transport restrictions, you can follow me online here: https://www.facebook.com/WillieRennieLibDem/