A cross-border battle is raging over the funding of the new Forth Bridge. But, is it worth fighting over this vital link in the transport network for North-east Scotland?
There is agreement from the UK and Scottish governments that a new bridge is needed, with the threat that the bridge might have to close to heavy traffic in the medium term and to all traffic long term.
What is in question is how it should be funded? The Scottish Government does not have any borrowing or fundraising powers. Its proposed solution was to bring forward income from future years, but the UK government has said “no”.
The current bridge has two lanes of traffic either way. After spending £1.7 to £2.3 billion and closing the existing bridge to regular traffic, the new bridge will bring us.... two lanes of traffic either way.
So the question of funding is unresolved. And it is a big question £1.7 to £2.3 billion to be precise.
But is there not an even more fundamental question? Will the project result in any significant improvement?
The existing over-congested bridge is two lanes either direction.
The latest cut-price plan is for a bridge (wait for it) with two lanes in either direction! The width reduction apparently chops something between £1.5 and £0.9 billion off the original £3.2 billion price.
The existing bridge, it is proposed, would be closed to all traffic other than public transport.
So, other than removing a few buses, the entire traffic load will be squeezed into two lanes as at present.
So what is the big benefit of such a vast expenditure?