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Courier says fund is needed

Call for return of tolls to repair Forth Road Bridge

Jerry StewartA Courier firm leader has called for the restoration of the toll on the Forth Road Bridge to help build a maintenance fund.

Jerry Stewart (pictured), co-director at Eagle Couriers, Scotland’s largest independent courier firm, believes that removing the tolls in 2008 directly created the problems which resulted in the near three-week closure of the bridge.

It is expected that the shutdown cost the Scottish economy in excess of £50 million.

The bridge was reopened to non-HGV vehicles ahead of schedule on Wednesday but remains closed to hauliers until mid-February. A plan has been instigate to clear congested roads. An HGV hotline has been implemented as part of a package aimed at supporting hauliers facing losses,

The deal was agreed in talks between Scotland’s infrastructure secretary Keith Brown and industry bosses.

Mr Stewart, an industry veteran of more than 30 years, said: “As wonderful as hindsight is, it is plainly obvious that the removal of the bridge toll in 2008 was a disaster just waiting to rear its ugly head.

“For starters it encouraged a boom in traffic, far exceeding the levels that the bridge was designed to cope with. We could have instead encouraged a more sustainable level of traffic and even implemented an increased levy for HGV’s and the heaviest vehicles that create the most structural stress.”

The Forth Road Bridge tolls were originally implemented temporarily, in order to cover the construction costs of the bridge with plans to abolish it at a later date.

However, The Scottish Parliament opted to continue tolling the bridge on three separate votes, until it was eventually scrapped in 2008.

The Forth Estuary Transport Association recently warned that traffic numbers had been regularly exceeding 70,000 daily vehicles with the bridge designed to take just 30,000.

Mr Stewart added: “It is telling that in the time period following the recovery of the initial construction costs and prior to the scrapping of the toll, a comprehensive strengthening and maintenance project took place – justifying the small extra charge to motorists.

“I simply do not believe that these important projects would have happened without the bridge being able to generate the capital required and it will be interesting to see what strategy they come up with for the new Queensferry Crossing.

“The ability to generate the funds needed for the comprehensive maintenance work should never have come to an end and I fully believe that despite the political mud-slinging that will inevitably go on well into the New Year, its return needs to be at the top of the agenda.

“It would be interesting to see how commuters and businesses would respond to the return of the tolls. If they can help to ensure that this kind of disastrous shutdown doesn’t happen again then I for one would be all for it.”

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