2007 - 2022

The Bridge

broenThe Bridge (Danish: Broen; Swedish: Bron; Scottish: Broken). 

As the public teeters on the edge of overcrowded station platforms across Fife, the full scale of our catastrophic over-reliance on the car is revealed. Carmeggedon is not just about 3,500 people deaths per year from air pollution, or cities brought to a dismal daily gridlock, it’s about an addiction to a way of life, and an inability to innovate away from disaster. As Amber Rudd represents you at COP21 in Paris, and Hurricane Desmond sweeps through your life as the media averts it’s eyes to the (join the ******* dots folks) reality of climate change, Scotland’s public transport system is laid bare.

As the economy of the Eastern seaboard feels the crunch, the jokes are flying in, and the Blame Game is fully under-way. Some – in a spectacular bout of ‘whitabootery’  – blamed the Greens for ridiculing the need for a second bridge. Actually they insisted that the remaining bridge have proper investment in maintenance. Some blamed the Scottish Government for privatising the maintenance, handing the contract from the Forth Estuary Transport Authority to Amey LG Ltd last year. Others look to blame Transport Scotland. Today some have brought up the cancellation of the toll system as the real root of the problem. The call comes as an answer to Angela Haggerty’s rhetorical question: “Is there nothing that can’t be turned into a bad social media story for the SNP?” Answer: no.

But we should really be blaming ourselves for our habitual obsessive reliance on the car. Even as the news unfolded about the crisis people were tweeting: ‘I’m going to drive never mind how congested it is’. To which you can only smile and wish them luck in their journey though life.  It’s a sort of thrawn cult of motor madness. An auto immune deficiency, if you like. A few years ago when we witnessed a huge snowfall and the M8 was closed, I remember wall-to-wall media coverage of the motorway with thick snow and ice and trails of trapped and abandoned cars shown on every news channel and feed. Yet webcam footage showed drivers blithely driving through the blizzard onto the motorway to join the chaos like particularly thick lemmings ensconced behind the wheel. Our response at the time? Sack the Transport Minister!

The Car as a Defeat Device

Is Vorsprung durch Technik the most ironic slogan of all time?

As New Scientist reported on the Volkswagen scandal in September the German car giants are unlikely to be alone in their emissions fraud:

“Volkswagen’s admission on 22 September that many of its cars tricked their way through routine tailpipe emission tests could throw light on why many European countries have failed to meet targets for reducing pollution from airborne nitrogen oxides (NOx). Failure to meet targets potentially means premature deaths and additional disease – the UK government estimated in a consultation document issued earlier this month that nitrogen dioxide emissions account for up to 23,500 premature deaths in the UK, mainly through heart and lung disease. VW rigged the tests by fitting its cars with a “defeat device”, a component designed to recognise when the emissions test is under way and to distort the real-world performance of the engine so that the emissions fall within the limit. Investigation by New Scientist suggest that while no other manufacturers of diesel vehicles will have gone as far as VW to cheat their way through the tests, there may be many that legally deploy unrealistic conditions during testing to artificially reduce strain on the engine, and with it the emissions produced.”

As a metaphor for our collapsing institutions, structures and systems, and as a symbol of our denial and fantasy about the changes required to shift to a low-carbon society, few can better the blind panic and confusion as the Forth Bridge closes down.

Single Track Road

The bridge closure is not just a problem for Fife, it’s a problem for our society. It’s a wake-up call about the almost comical lack of resilience in our way of getting about. The economy of large parts of Eastern Scotland are reliant on a single road. Our response? Build another single road next to it. It’s not exactly thinking outside the box is it?

Where, you might ask is the political leadership to innovate and diversify transport options? If the Edinburgh tram fiasco showed our inability to organise and coordinate a public transport strategy, it impacted too on the Forth transport system. Word is that the plan originally would have meant a ferry and hovercraft across the river to connect with the tram at Granton and whisking people up Leith Walk and into town. This was – allegedly – stymied because Forth Ports Authority own the harbour. Once again, profiteering and private interest trumps the public good. With people huckled out of the Edinburgh housing market, and a rip-off unregulated rental market, the commuter trains from Fife are mobbed with people unable to afford to live in the capital. Where, even with the new second bridge plans are the real innovations and commitment to long-term solutions? Where are the enforced car-sharing, large-scale affordable public transport investments, encouragements to cyclists and low-carbon rail and ferry choices? They are nowhere to be seen. We are trapped in a debate about transport which is confined to a sort of binary uselessness defined often as a choice between: Heathrow or Gatwick?

Large parts of our economy is reliant on shifting goods and people across a river. A river with one crossing. A crossing now closed.

If the Scottish Government, and Fife and Lothian Councils are culpable for a listless unimaginative approach to transport and a complete lack of innovation over decades, so too is the UK govt, whose environmental record as we stagger about Paris looking for answers is woeful. We are tied to a state with a perilous track record on the environment. As George Monbiot records:

“The UK is now the only G7 nation substantially to increase its subsidies for fossil fuels: this year, George Osborne granted a further £1.7bn of tax breaks for extracting oil and gas from the North Sea. Cameron has imposed, through the Infrastructure Act 2015, a legal obligation on the government to “maximise economic recovery” of the UK’s oil and gas. As it also has a legal obligation (through the Climate Change Act 2008) to minimise the burning of oil and gas, this creates something of a quandary. But no one in the government appears to care. Cameron has, in effect, shut down the development of onshore windfarms and large-scale solar power, and now wants businesses to invest in gas instead. The only way in which more gas burning could be reconciled with our climate change commitments is to capture and bury the carbon dioxide it produces. But seven days after the government announced its dash for gas, it dumped its carbon capture and storage competition, ensuring that its contradictions are now impossible to resolve. It has cut the funding for energy efficiency in homes by 80%. It is selling its Green Investment Bank. It has cut the incentives to buy less polluting cars. It wants to build new roads and runways. Only with a reversal of these policies, and the vastly expensive closure of the plants Cameron now seeks to commission, could Britain meet its climate targets.”


Hans Rosenfeldt’s brilliant drama The Bridge stems from the discovery of a body on the Øresund Bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark. It’s a statement of Scandic confidence in drama and engineering. Here we can’t connect Dalmeny to North Queensferry.

We should have multiple crossings of the Forth, which could diversify the stream of people and goods and bring economic benefits to ports and harbours, be they Granton, Burntisland, Rosyth, Kirkcaldy, Portobello, Cockenzie or Leith. We should have a housing policy that allows people to have access to affordable homes and not just a way of funnelling cash into the accounts of private landlords but allows people to live in the capital city. We should have a truly ‘enterprising’ economy that doesn’t obsess about presenteeism. What are all these people travelling to do? What are they actually doing?

We should have a transport system that invests in public transport alternatives and incentives people to shift by making it more attractive and convenient to get out of the car. But we’d need to invest in that ourselves, financially and emotionally to make that happen, and not just point the finger at others.


Comments (48)

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  1. Alf Baird says:

    Almost all major waterfront city travel-to-work-areas around the world enjoy both bridges and a network of ferry services for access. Edinburgh is the odd one out. That’s down to poor planning by authorities – local, transport, and national, and rejection of ferry proposals. I have been involved in several studies on ferry services for the Forth and actual trials have been done, but they have all either been ignored or rejected by the authorities, blocked by them even where private firms wanted to invest (e.g. Kirkcaldy-Portobello and Granton-Burntisland).

    Second major problem is that virtually all ports and port land on the Forth is today owned by a Cayman Island registered private equity outfit, who charge any ship (and passenger) an arm and a leg to use their dated facilities, and this ownership model makes investing in ports and shipping services more expensive than it need be. This also explains why urban waterfront redevelopment in Scotland lags 10-20 years behind the best examples – e.g. Barcelona, Genoa, Yokohama, Hamburg, Sydney etc etc

    On both counts our national government is negligent. Many individuals and businesses will suffer as a result of lengthy bridge closure and Scotland’s economic growth will be further constrained by it.

    1. mclellan says:

      You’re right to suggest that the “national government is negligent”. It may be best to consider handing responsibility for important things like this to Westminbster. After all, there are plenty of Scots MPs there.

      1. Graeme Purves says:

        Er… it was Westminster legislation that transferred Forth Ports to the private sector in 1992. On the Continent, port land is widely in public ownership, making strategic redevelopment in the public interest much easier.

        1. Alf Baird says:

          Graeme is right – westminster sold off the ports, rather cheaply in fact (as they did with airports, energy and most key utilities). On the continent ports are still owned by the cities and towns that surround them, which makes waterfront re-development a lot easier and with a strong focus on social and environmental agendas. The utter negligence at the likes of Leith will probably end with compulsory purchase by the council, and that is something I have advocated to them.

          So we are left with Westminster’s legacy. However, Holyrood today has ‘responsibility’ for ports, and could do more, much more.

          1. Doug McGregor says:

            Forth Ports were privatised in 1992 , the sale was to existing directors , ie a management buyout with no chance for the public to get involved . It was a total carve up. They have had their investment back umpteen times and still own the majority of the assets they stripped.

      2. Fed up with the Lies and Propaganda of the London Media Industrial Complex says:

        McLellan my child, in the infamous words of Johann Lamont ”We’re not genetically programmed in Scotland to make political decisions.” Perhaps that’s why the Liebour party that prefers Scots in a subservient ” Yes Bwana, No Bwana ” role is consigned to the dust bin of history where it rightfully belongs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBH55ZeZU4w

  2. Fed up with the Lies and Propaganda of the London Media Industrial Complex says:

    I’m amazed the media hasn’t blamed the bad weather on ISIS. On the front page of the Times the screaming headline was ” ISIS invades Afghanistan !! ” and a photograph of ISIS ”terrorists” dressed as ninja fighters all in neat rows, it was like a Busby Berkley routine. And the sheeple fall for this ? Sigh.

  3. Kevin Brown says:

    Good article. Well said. How obvious is it that cars are the root of all evil? (among other things). And why is it that almost all of us are absolutely unwilling to contemplate this self evident fact?

    Have we been ‘marketed to death’? (soon I’m afraid, literally, as we fall into the global warming abyss). I have spent much of my life in Canada, where our working class (we don’t even use that phrase anymore, we’re all ‘middle class’ in North America now, we’ve been successfully sold) as a point of pride drives the biggest, chromiest, most vulgar four wheel drive pickup trucks they can (not) afford. With these, they drive to the convenience store to buy a big gulp and a loaf of bread or whatever. No money to pay for your very own monster truck? No problem – that’s what bank loans and credit cards are for.

    I think we’ve all gone mad. And we’ll pay the price for it sooner rather than later.

  4. bringiton says:

    Getting people out of their cars is a very difficult thing to achieve.
    When Edinburgh city council proposed a car toll a few years ago in order to fund public infrastructure transportation,it was vetoed by residents and this in a city with possibly the best public bus service in the UK.
    At peak times,the major road arteries in and out of the city are chock a block with cars,even when dedicated bus lanes are in operation.
    The new towns built in the 1960s in the Central belt were specifically designed for car use and as a result have woeful public transportation systems.
    As long as we have disparate vested interests you are not going to see any joined up thinking when it comes to regional policy and as we have seen with the Bridge closure,a single point of failure in the transportation infrastructure leads to chaos.
    Perhaps the opening of the new bridge will alleviate this situation but we will still have most people traveling in cars without a major rethink of how we do things.
    I am not optimistic about politicians being able to do much about this,especially with falling oil prices.

    1. Peter says:

      The congestion in Edinburgh is caused by the city council blocking roads and narrowing arteries. Just like in your body that will have the same end result. Stokes and heart attacks.

      Combined with the insanity of the tram and the mania for endless population growth it is irrelevant how many people use public transport. It just won’t meet the demand.

      And vote SNP twice. Anything else will just let the unionists win.

      1. Jeff says:

        Erm, congestion is caused by too many cars on the road. Instead of carping about the trams get out of your motor and get on one? (Or a bus maybe?).

  5. katherine hamilton says:

    As usual a wee bit city centric. I live in – very – rural Scotland. Single track road to the A road. No buses. I need a car. We don’t all live in and around cities, in fact most of us don’t. One decent bridge is enough. Just leave earlier to get where you are going. The Highlands needs more infrastructure spending than more bridges over the Forth.

    1. tartanfever says:

      I’m sure everywhere in Scotland needs a lot more spent in infrastructure, but frankly, when you start regional partisan crap like this you’ll get little sympathy.

      Of course, what we should be pointing out is that in terms of national infrastructure spend, London receives £1000’s more than any other region.


      1. Broadbield says:

        “regional partisan crap”. Not very helpful. Try living in a “remote” area where the nearest shop is miles away, no bus service, a visit to hospital can be a 3 hour or more round trip, children spend hours going to school or have to live in a hostel, or live on an island and look at the cost of ferry travel.

        1. tartanfever says:

          yet more regional partisan crap.

          1. John Craig says:

            It may be “regional partisan crap” to you, so what do you suggest . Should all areas only served by single track roads be closed to human occupation? People in remote areas get substantially less from their Council Tax payments than do city dwellers; if there was one thing that would make that pill less bitter to swallow, it would be decent road infrastructure. The major cause of the FRB drama is the vast expansion in the number of people who wanted to live in the country on the north side of the forth, but still have employment in the Lothians. As for the article itself, it is pretty accurate, just misses out the rise of the four car family, a rather awkward side to our affluence that even “austerity” isn’t reducing.

  6. tartanfever says:

    Agree in general with the argument Mike but not with this.

    ‘blamed the Greens for ridiculing the need for a second bridge. Actually they insisted that the remaining bridge have proper investment in maintenance.’

    Maintenance would undoubtedly lead to Bridge closures exactly as we are currently experiencing and the older the bridge becomes, the more maintenance will be required and again, more closures.

    At some point the bridge has to be replaced, even if there were a huge reduction in vehicle traffic it still would be far higher than it’s original estimates.

    Secondly as you seem to be so anti-road, then I wonder what your take on electric/hybrid cars are ? Or indeed, public transport. like buses, that are ‘green’ ?

    Thirdly, surely it’s not just a case of having a ferry, what about all the infrastructure required ? What about the small coastal towns with narrow streets, limited parking that have the jetty’s and docks used for mooring – how would they cope with increased traffic ? In consideration of alternatives, we have to look at people’s commutes fully – from when they close the front door behind them until they arrive at the door of the destination.

    And finally, if that requires a new way of thinking requiring long term solutions and a change in attitude, then the Green Party are just as guilty as anyone else of using political point scoring in the short term as has been shown in some of Patrick Harvie’s tweets of 2011 that are once again doing the rounds.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      “Thirdly, surely it’s not just a case of having a ferry, what about all the infrastructure required ?”

      Port infrastructure largely exists already, breakwaters, quays etc. Buses and trams and taxis connect with ferries in most urban waterfront cities, so this should not be beyond us. Stagecoach idea was to actually connect two bus stations on the beaches, at Kirkcaldy and Porty – so highly integrated seamless transport. Small park and ride might be an option at Burntisland. Buses from Granton not a big problem, and maybe trams in time. Through ticketing, multimodal, integrated transport – works in most places. Try to think positively – its healthy!

      1. JG says:

        The difference between the Forth and the other places you mention where there are extensive waterfront ferry services is surely one of exposure?

        The Forth is open to the North Sea and as you no doubt know operating constraints on passenger vessels are much more rigourous than in former more gung ho times!

        The Stagecoach summer experiment certainly proved there is a market for a seasonal service but would the reliability in winter be enough to be a serious commuting alternative?

        1. Agreed there are logistical challenges but we successfully run ferry services to the Western Isles and there are several good (and underused) ports on both sides. My argument is that multiple options would lessen the load – but it needs to be connected and strategic, so you get off the ferry and/or hovercraft and get on to a fast bus or tram service.

        2. Alf Baird says:

          Weather is not a problem provided the vessels selected are up to the task. Modern ferries are generally far more reliable than land transport, being less affected by rain, ice, snow, landslides, flooding, traffic congestion, road accidents, potholes, or wind or fog. A Granton-Burntisland crossing would take just 15-mins and two boats could provide a 30-min frequency or better. Each boat could offer up to 400 seats or more if needed, so bigger than a local train. The largest multiple occupancy public transport vehicle in the world is a ferry – the Staten Island ferries each carry up to 3,000 people, and is free! Globally, ferries transport as many people as aviation. The problem in central Scotland is we have too many highway/civil engineers determining transport policy who view the rivers as a barrier, rather than an opportunity. That’s also why there is no contingency plan for a broken bridge!

          1. Thanks Alf. I had no idea the Staten Island ferries were so big, and subsidised too! Granton – Burntisland or Leith – Burntisland would be my route too. Biggest obstacle would be some road works at Burntisland but nothing impossible. I think you are absolutely right the mindset is river = obstacle rather than river = opportunity.

          2. JG says:

            I believe the last time the old Ferry Route between Granton and Burntisland was tried was in 1991/2?

            Certainly this would be the obvious crossing, however perhaps substantial catamarans would be less weather dependent than hovercraft?

            Something along the lines of Pentalina of Pentland Ferries perhaps – indeed would they be interested in the crossing?

      2. JG says:

        The Scottish Rail system is only now being dragged (partially) into the late 20th century.

        The electrification of the E & G is a useful step forward but the lack of ambition elsewhere is woeful.

        Only in Scotland would the introduction (not for another 3 years mind) of 40 year old trains (HSTs) on the main Intercity services be hailed as a marvelous innovation!

        1. Alf Baird says:

          JG – about 5-6 years ago Pentland Ferries were close to acquiring two large catamarans and floating pontoons for Granton and Burntisland and were prepared to operate a service without subsidy. The service did not proceed because: Fife Council and the local transport authority refused to help with creating a modest park&ride at Burntisland; Forth Ports wanted to levy a ‘tax’ on every passenger using the ferry (this around the same time as bridge tolls were removed, making the bridge crossing free to vehicles); Port charges were also high; and the local transport authority was no help either.

          Lets just say all the ‘authorities’ were hopeless. But if the bridge is out for much longer, watch for the desperate scramble to acquire ferries……..

          1. JG says:

            Perhaps though the fact that it was Andrew Banks of Pentland Ferries that was involved didn’t help?

            If there is one thing that the largely incompetent Scottish Local Authorities and various public bodies like the vastly inefficient and bloated CALMAC don’t like is being shown up!

  7. Penny says:

    The ownership of port land and the ports themselves all along the Forth by rentiers that hide their identity makes clear an essential URBAN purpose for a land reform bill which would require transparency in the ownership, control and use of all land.

    The stunted character of the rail system is symptom enough of the cost of being part of the UK which never got reckoned in all the indyref discussions: a rail system that was cut up to serve London’s needs; not the needs of the people and businesses of Scotland

  8. Piotr says:

    Despite many worthy initiatives, we have really not begun to develop a coherent response to the challenge of moving to a zero carbon (dioxide emitting) world and we are fast running out of carbon credit. Part of the response must involve thinking about a how we live and travel. Our responses are all predicated on the past, not the future. It is difficult to conceive that ‘business-as-usual’ or ‘more-of-the-same’ can be the answer, yet we are all maddeningly and myopically tied into this.

    We need to need to think seriously about how we break out of this addiction to the past. The starting point must be far greater public engagement and dialogue than we have at present about the challenge we face and our possible responses to it. This requires senior political sponsorship and ownership.

    We all need to own a map for a future zero carbon world, one we can see, touch, feel, believe in, become excited about.

    Maybe a broken bridge can help us start the journey.

  9. ceebee says:

    i do on occasion forgive me for doing so use the bridge in my car a wee 500 economic car 62 mpg if i drive at 60 .
    the reason is to visit my son and my niece further away in kircaldy . both trips i could do by train but as im disabled lack the abiity to walk far at each end and as i live rurally need to take car to station . but on a time scale it makes the day very long and i need to be around sooner for my two aging cats . and i am in so much pain after doing it all even in the car never mind getting two trains and a bus each way so the comment on what are all these people doing is a trifle nuts it imples though we are not supposed to venture outwith the city walls or if doing so use a horse and swim the forth .
    or possibly we should go back to living in a cave . the answer to all of this is not to stop people moving around its how to do it with less impact . electric cars are one solution but they need to be cheaper and more miles on a charge and much more charging points in scotland before the public will change over from petrol power . the way forward in life is not backwards but forwards and it is happening just not fast enough due to econimic pressures . you cant pay people peanuts for working then expect them to have the newest e or low emmission cars . but then the people who do have money swank around in large guzzlng monsters with no thought for the environment .

  10. ceebee says:

    as an add on what does the anti new bridge brigade think about the bridges that connect denmark to sweden . ? our wee bridges are nothing compared to the scale of that . an amzing feat of engineering and im sure they will last as long as out forth road bridge has . so it needs fixing well nothing last forever and its done well . but does anyone say what are all these people doing going over and back to sweden . no they just get on with there lives as they materialise due to the bridge being there its call progress .

  11. Peter Clive says:

    Go on, someone say “bridge too far” one more time, I dare you …


  12. Brian MacLeod says:

    Basically we need all infrastructure to be owned by the govt, and where that is not possible, then not by overseas corporations.

  13. Portjim says:

    I recall when another Forth bridge was being suggested a number of years back, the Edinburgh establishment was dead against it. Why? Because Edinburgh was already struggling to cope with its traffic. They seemed to be unable to comprehend that a lot of vehicles crossing the Forth are going places other than Edinburgh!
    Leaving aside the “car=bad” argument, there are two issues:
    1) lack of flexibility – any transport system that has too few alternatives is a disaster waiting to happen.
    2) over-centralisation – since the Holyrood parliament was established, jobs and influence have been sucked into Edinburgh at an ever-increasing rate. If there was more suitable alternative employment in Fife, Perth etc, or more affordable housing in the Lothians, perhaps not so many people would have to commute over the Forth.

    Lack of flexibility is just down to a combination of stupidity and wishful thinking (universal traits), which will always bite you in the arse eventually. As an ex roads engineer, I got fed up with arguing with council lots (and traffic engineers) that “no, you can’t block off all the ‘rat-runs’ – you need alternatives for when you have road-works / a fire / bad accident / orange walk”.

    The over-centralisation is, in my view, more critical. We constantly bitch about London (with reason), but let’s be careful we don’t create London-on-Forth.

    1. Undeadshaun says:

      Perth does have a Scottish government department based at it, the environment and rural affairs department.

      Though I think most commuting from perth is to Dundee or glasgow.

  14. Broadbield says:

    The figures tell the story: first year 2.5m vehicles; now over 20m per year. You build more roads you get more traffic. People move further away from their work and commute by car. Mike’s final paragraph is right on the money: more and better and cheaper public transport and we have to use it. Time to put up the billboard: You are not stuck in traffic, YOU are traffic.

  15. David Russell says:

    Large parts of our economy is reliant on shifting goods and people across a river. A river with one crossing.

    Presumably why a second crossing is being built.

  16. john young says:

    It all boils down to “governments/governance” political parties making political appointees,where are the innovators the far seeing those of radical solutions to the problems,whether it,s the SNP or the local council those appointed do not seem to have the ability to think on their feet.We have an abundance of land underused? there are restrictions on the land ,why? if as has been said that large tracts are foreign owned then fcuking deal with it instead of a load of hand wringing something we are certainly good at.We need to stop hiding behind these obstacles and get out and explain to the people what/why we are going to do something about it.The I colanders were warned about imminent armaggedon they told them to shove it and went ahead,we have too many far too many that are elected but are “just in oot o the cauld”.Time for the talk to end and some clear and concise action introduced.

    1. Doug McGregor says:

      Yes , to coin a phrase. I , too , wonder why we sit back and take the legal diazepam which keeps us docile and in our place. The land that is required to make Scotland a 21st century Nation has to be released , it belongs to all of us.

  17. Puzzled Puss says:

    It seems to me we need to be encouraging/enabling people to live closer to their workplace (or work closer to their homes). This would involve giving serious consideration to the problem of decentralisation. I would hate to see Scotland developing the problems that bedevil the UK, with people spending several hours a day travelling long distances to work in London.

    1. John Page says:

      A brilliant article by Mike and this is a good post…….rural Internet connectivity would support decentralisation.

      1. Yes John, this is key – broadband as a public utility and buildings where people can network and collaborate without having to travel long distances are a key part of re-understanding ‘transport’.

  18. Coire says:

    I’m part of the problem as I drive a 5 mile commute over the bridge. But, when insuring, taxing, MOTing, servicing, maintaining and fuelling a car is much cheaper than a yearly rail ticket there’s not really an option, especially on a low income. Either motoring is artificially cheap or rail travel is hugely inflated. Plus, when you need a car for other reasons then it makes financial sense to commute with it.

    It doesn’t help when I, and I’m sure many others are at the mercy of management which promotes presenteeism and inflexible working. Even now with the east stuck in gridlock I’m being told that flexible working, home working or part time working are all unacceptable.

    The minds in charge of many aspects of business and society are stuck firmly in the 80s.

    To give the railways credit, they’ve been shifting me to work efficiently this week. If this capacity could be maintained, it may be a viable alternative.

    1. Agreed – its common sense that we need to make public transport more attractive (financially and in terms of quality of experience) than private transport. We have some of the highest rail fares in Europe.

  19. KBPlayer says:

    I heard Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian, talking at a public meeting on Climate, Transport and Cycling a few weeks ago.


    The thrust of her speech was whether present transport policy was doing anything for emissions. Transport makes up a quarter of our climate change emissions in Scotland, larger than industry or agriculture. What she said has bearing at the present problems on Forth Road Bridge.

    The Scottish Government’s investment choices are making matters worse. The expenditure on motorways and trunk roads has never been higher but the expenditure on maintenance on our roads has never been lower.

    She was talking about potholes as all of us who go on wheels in Edinburgh could talk about but it applies to the FRB. Governments love big “visionary” schemes with a ribbon to cut, not the mundane day to day maintenance. So over the Forth another huge bridge to take the ever-increasing load while the existing one has not been sufficiently maintained.

    Another point she made was that if we give someone who is over-weight bigger trousers they will simply fill them. So happened with the Forth Road Bridge. A colleague was telling me of his granddad in the 1960s who drove from his house on the Fife side and had a 20 minute journey before parking in George Street. That became an ambition for everyone. And it can’t be done. With that, towns in Fife and West Lothian turn into dormitories for Edinburgh.

    She pointed out that as fuel costs have fallen, making it cheaper to drive, while public transport costs have risen. “Rail users have seen in real terms prices increases of 18% and bus users a staggering 26% at least.”

    Meanwhile cycle infrastructure has to be fought for metre by metre and is generally made circuitous and indirect (though the new A90 path is pretty good).

    The Scottish government’s vision is for 10% journeys by bicycle 2020. Edinburgh will hit that all right, but as the country as a whole comes out at 1% this is a “vision”. A vision, not a target or a project where specific tasks have to be carried out and specific infrastructure built.

    So when it comes to reducing emissions and fundamentally over-hauling the way we do transport the Scottish government is pretty much standard.

  20. KB Player says:

    Bella Caledonia – so good I posted twice. Please remove one – thanks.

  21. Derick fae Yell says:

    This is the Bridgemaster’s report to the FETA Board in 2009, which basically notes that the bridge was in such poor condition that it needed lengthy closures to replace the main expansion joints. He recommended that this be delayed until the new bridge was complete, and then presumably they would be able to shut one side at a time on the old bridge. The Board rubberstamped it – a perennial problem in ‘democratic oversight’ of complex projects. It’s not possible for elected members to gain sufficient knowlege of the subject, so they must trust their professional advice. Have to say the Bridgemaster’s recommendation was reasonable, in the light of the knowledge available. But maybe they should have got Wee Willie Rennie with his crystal ball to forsee the unforseeable!


    1. Alf Baird says:

      “in 2009….the bridge was in such poor condition that it needed lengthy closures ”

      2009 you say? Around the same time as local public authorities on both sides of the firth were refusing to support proposed cross-Forth ferry services for Kirkcaldy-Portobello and Granton-Burntisland.

      They were obviously unaware that the best (or only?) contingency plan for a broken bridge is – FERRIES! (e.g. San Francisco, Hobart, Lisbon, etc etc)

  22. ceebee says:

    another snippit of info LONDON has 33 bridges over the thames . we in scotland have 3 going over the forth another one on its its way . so does this not put any perspective on the bridge/ traffic debate . yawn .

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