Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Call for Forth Road Bridge to reopen to ease congestion

Traffic leading up to the crossing Image copyright Traffic Scotland
Image caption Traffic leading up to the crossing on Monday morning

An MSP has called for the Forth Road Bridge to be reopened in a bid to ease congestion until the "tourist boom" of the Queensferry Crossing passes.

Alex Cole-Hamilton has urged Transport Scotland to temporarily allow traffic to use the old bridge.

Both ends of the new £1.35bn bridge have experienced queues stretching for miles since its opening.

Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown said the level of interest in the crossing had been expected.

Mr Cole-Hamilton, Edinburgh West MSP, said: "With such a fantastic structure there was always going to be an addition to traffic due to tourists wanting to see the new structure.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The crossing re-opened to traffic on Thursday

"However, it is clear that this is having a material impact on people's livelihood with some commuters from Fife missing half a day of work due to the excessive build up of traffic.

"To help those who depend on free flowing traffic to on from Fife Transport Scotland should consider delaying the work to the Forth Road Bridge and keep it open until the 'tourist boom' of the new bridges passes."

Later, on BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Cole-Hamilton said: "My call to Transport Scotland is to say 'before you start digging up the old Forth Road Bridge for the much-needed repairs - which they say are going to take six to eight weeks to conclude - then let's just make sure that this isn't just small teething problems'.

"If there is a material problem with the road layout of the bridge we have a release valve in the form of the Forth Road Bridge."

Image copyright Davd Taylor

The new bridge across the Firth of Forth re-opened to vehicles on Thursday, ahead of the morning rush hour.

It had initially opened to traffic on 30 August but was closed for celebrations between 1 and 6 September, with vehicles using the Forth Road Bridge instead.

A 40mph speed limit is in place on the approach roads and over the new crossing.

The Forth Road Bridge remains open to pedestrians and cyclists as work continues to make the final connections to the network.

'Same capacity'

Later in the year the Queensferry Crossing will become a motorway and the Forth Road Bridge will only be used by public transport and cyclists.

Mr Brown told the programme: "We always anticipated this huge level of interest. What we currently have is the same capacity as before - one bridge opened, 40mph, average speed cameras.

"I know it can be extremely frustrating but we have to get to the stage of being able to open both bridges and thereby alleviate the some of the pressure that is currently being felt.

"These is not repairs, these are changes to the [Forth Road Bridge] approach road [north side]. We are not digging up the Forth Road Bridge as Alex Cole-Hamilton said.

"Also, the Forth Road Bridge is still open to active travellers - bicycles and people walking over the bridge."

He added: "I've asked Transport Scotland to see if there's more that we can do. And we have seen some improvements today.

"Hopefully when it becomes less of a novelty it will improve even further and within four to six weeks we expect to see the old bridge open and some of that further capacity released."

'Resilience and journey time'

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: "We appreciate road users' patience as the new road layout and crossing continues to bed in and recommend people plan their journeys in advance and check Traffic Scotland for the latest position on the roads before starting their journey.

"We have always said that even when the crossing becomes a fully operational motorway the main advantage will be its resilience and journey time reliability, as result of the introduction of hard shoulders, wind-shielding and a 70mph speed limit.

"It is a replacement for the Forth Road Bridge and as such does not increase capacity.

"The Forth Road Bridge will become a public transport corridor in the autumn, until then we are not going to get a true picture of operational performance."

Transport Scotland officers are monitoring the new network to identify congestion points.

The Queen officially opened the bridge last Monday, following a series of events marking the opening of the structure, the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world.

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