Author: Semper Paratus

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Monday, February 8th, 2010 at 7:03 pm
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Forth Replacement Crossing – Plus

Be aware of vital decisions being made on your behalf.
Don’t let final plans pass by default.

“PUBLIC INFORMATION EXHIBITION” ……it said
“To give the public an opportunity to view information to be considered by the Scottish Parliament as part of its scrutiny of the Forth Crossing Bill”, it said.

“You are invited”, it said……..
As a plethora of claims and counter claims continue to be raised, including a report from the City of Edinburgh Council urging the Scottish Government not to commit to a new Forth road bridge, at a present minimum of two billion pounds plus, until 2011/12 when better information is available on the exact condition of the existing bridge. An interesting exhibition beckoned.

Your correspondent attended but left disappointed and considerably uneasy.
Rather than a comparison or even a recap of the various options, apparently the only decision to be made was where to build the new bridge. The decision has already been made, so it would seem, to replace a vulnerable, 2-carriageway, wire-stayed bridge with yet another and similarly vulnerable 2-carriageway, wire-stayed bridge.

The sole reason for this decision…..COST. Go for the cheapest model. Think short term. Typical! As far as development and usage, I’m sure you need not be reminded of the many, many times in winter when traffic is restricted by high winds and the bridge even closed.

Undoubtedly it would be a good idea for you now to write urgently to your MSP for guidance on the wisdom of this decision, how it came about, who were the world –class experts who made it and to express your serious concern? Certainly make sure your views are known before Holyrood completes the final scrutiny in early 2010. This is important.

All this assuming, of course, that the present road bridge can’t be fixed – an unsubstantiated assumption at present.

Having said that, it appears that part of the plan is to retain the original bridge and reserve it for future exclusive “public transport”. Presumably the authorities have confidence that the original bridge will survive to become the “most expensive bus lane in the world”.

Various other schemes were tabled for serious investigation and consideration, such as differing types of bridge, a tunnel and, one that seemed to offer most flexibility and development possibilities, a low profile causeway or barrage. All dismissed? Where are the decision records? What were the publicised technical difficulties, if any? What and where are the comparative costs? Or have they just conveniently been forgotten? Who were the world- class technical experts and consultants who decided on “the same again”?

Thinking long term, there is a fundamental duty to seek out ecologically sound solutions and I was impressed and take as an example the concept of a solid yet ‘free flow’, multi- purpose causeway or barrage situated (say) above Rosyth. This could be constructed to carry as many roadways, carriageways and tram or railway lines as may be deemed necessary for now and the future.

The plus element arises from the added value of marine hydro-generators embedded along its width, creating carbon-free electricity reliably and on a massive scale.

Apart from the short periods of ‘slack water’ around high and low tides, the tides themselves never stop and the reversible turbine blades would be able to benefit from both incoming and outgoing tides. Any fear of a rise in the water level in the river west of the causeway would be prevented by water’s free-flow through the turbines. Additionally, the provision of a central bridged gap in the structure would allow the passage of ships up-river to Grangemouth.

This design would allow for small craft (coastal vessels) and medium sized ships to pass through unhindered but, on the occasions when a vessel with a higher superstructure required access, the central gap bridge would either lift or swing to allow swift passage. If operated thoughtfully this need not be a too frequent or lengthy an occurrence. Indeed times of opening would be able to be pre-planned with Forth Navigation Service in order to minimise any delays as larger ships would, as is already the case, be naturally constrained to only suitable states of the tide.

If more suitable, an actual lock or locks could be included in the design.
The technology already exists. It must be possible. It already happens elsewhere.
Considering the benefits, the plan need not necessarily be proportionately more expensive than other options and such a multi-use asset would endure, be maintenance friendly, be safe and, importantly, with its very significant carbon free energy potential, surely prove to be a real, long term solution. Certainly worthy of your support. Be silly not to!

But the clock is ticking. Time is getting short. Get in touch with your MSP and make sure your views are known. We owe it to future generations.

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