Forth Crossing Bill Committee:
Submission from the Forth Estuary Transport Authority
Last updated on 12 Apr 2010
FETA has submitted the following statement for consideration by the Scottish Parliament's Forth Crossing Bill Committee:
The Forth Road Bridge Joint Board (FRBJB) was established in 1947 to finance, build, maintain and operate the Forth Road Bridge. In 2002, the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) was established as the successor body to the FRBJB and all staff, property rights and liabilities of the FRBJB were transferred to and vested in the new Authority.
FETA was constituted as a Joint Board made up from ten elected members of the constituent Local Authorities. These were deemed to be: City of Edinburgh Council (four members); Fife Council (four members); Perth and Kinross Council (one member) and West Lothian Council (one member).
FETA’s primary purpose is the management, maintenance and operation of the Forth Road Bridge. This is a statutory duty which transferred from the original Board and in effect means that it is the Authority that is responsible for all acts and omissions carried out in maintaining and operating the Forth Road Bridge.
The proposed scheme with the existing bridge dedicated to public transport and the new bridge carrying general transport raises issues for the future maintenance, management and operation of the two bridges.
The Policy Memorandum accompanying the Bill suggests that decisions on the maintenance and operation of the new bridge do not need to be made until 2013.
However, it is the view of FETA that a decision on the management, maintenance and operation of both bridges should be made as soon as possible.
As the operator of one of the world’s major cable-supported bridges, FETA liaises closely with its international peer group. Lessons learned from other major bridges, in particular the Second Severn Crossing, show how important it is that the maintenance operator is involved at the procurement stage and as early as possible in that process. Involving the people who will be looking after the structure in the long term will ensure that future maintenance issues are not overlooked during the design process. Failure to plan adequately for maintenance can lead to costly problems in later years. This is an especially pertinent issue in Design and Construct contracts, where the emphasis is naturally on competitive tendering.
FETA also considers that, to ensure best value and the most effective operation and maintenance, the new crossing and the existing bridge should be managed jointly by a single operator. There are obvious efficiencies and operational benefits to be gained by avoiding duplication of resources and by one body co-ordinating maintenance and traffic management between the two structures. It is noted that at Severn and Dartford, where two crossings are operated, they are both managed by a single operator.
We are fortunate to have a highly experienced and skilled team of staff already on site. The Forth Road Bridge’s engineers, riggers, painters, tradesmen, traffic officers and support staff have a wealth of experience unique in Scotland of managing, operating and maintaining a long span cable supported bridge. We are also fortunate to have already on site a full complement of workshops, stores and office accommodation.
It would make sense to use these existing resources to manage both bridges and only a small increase in staff numbers and physical resources would be required. Given the 15-year programme of major capital works under way on the existing bridge, continuity of staff and experience is another important consideration.
In order to facilitate a single body looking after both crossings, it is recognised that FETA as constituted may have to be dissolved and a new body established. However, FETA considers that the most important issues are as follows:
- A single organisation should manage both bridges
- The Forth Road Bridge’s existing experienced staff and resources should be utilised
- An early decision should be made in order to allow the maintenance operator to be involved at the procurement stage.
FETA also takes the view that some local accountability should be retained by any authority charged with managing both bridges.
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