BRIDGE OR WHITE ELEPHANT?
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BY J. P. B. SHERRIF MITA "IrWO bridges connected by country lanes" was the description of one haulier when he was invited to comment on the situation in Fife now that the new Tay Road Bridge is open to traffic. The bridge was opened by HM The Queen Mother yesterday (Thursday).
The bridge which links Angus and Fife on the Scottish east coast is for the moment, at least, seen as a mixed blessing. The journey through Fife is no more attractive to the heavy commercial vehicle operator than it was prior to the opening of the bridge. Mr. T. MacC allum, the Fife county highway engineer, visualizes the route from the Tay Bridge to the Forth Bridge as A914 to New Inn, A92 to Kirkcaldy, thence by a new regional road to the bridge. The one deficiency in this theory is that there are no appreciable stretches of dual carriageway and the new regional road has still to get off the drawing board. The one section of motorway projected for Fife is the Cawdenbeath-Kelty by-pass, an extension of M90, which will lead traffic into Kinross.
The 10s. toll charge is a further deterrent in the eyes of most hauliers and the secretary of the Fife and District Tipper Operators, Mr. T. Gaitens, told COMMERCIAL MOTOR prior to the opening: "We will save nothing in time by going over the bridge; in fact, we expect there to be a great join up of vehicles on the country roads."
The RHA and TRTA in Scotland fear that the toll charge of 10s. will send all but a few vehicles round by A90. "Only those vehicles in close proximity to the bridge approaches will use .it", said Mr. L. Stokoe, of the RHA. Mr. Stokoe could see little reason for a public inquiry which recommended a 6s. toll when the Secretary of State has the power to impose a toll of 10s. for commercial vehicles of over 30 cwt.
The news of the toll released last week has caused a murmur )n the area of the Forth Bridge, and local road transport associations now fear that the toll charge there may be increased. The present toll is 2s.6d. Recently this toll was confirmed for "the time being". Previous hopes that this might mean eventual abolition of tolls have now disappeared to be peplaced by the fear of increase., Mr. John MacWilliam, Convener of the County of Fife, Her Majesty's Lieut. in Fife, and a member of the Forth Road Bridge Board, spoke to me this week on the question of tolls. Mr. MacWilliam points out that the question of tolls on the Forth Road Bridge is a matter for the bridge board. The level of tolls on the Tay Bridge
will in no way affect the Forth Bridge, b( cause as Mr. MacWilliam points out, th method of financing each bridge has bee. different. Basically, the Forth Road Bridg was constructed by government capital while the Tay Bridge is a local authorit! problem. "The flow of traffic over the Fortl Road Bridge will be far in excess of the Ta) Bridge", he said.
Mr. MacCallum considers that if th( authorities had waited for a government grant another 20 years would have elapsed.
"The community is receiving a service 2C years in advance", he said. On the question of link roads, both Mr. MacWilliam and Mr. MacC allum considered that the bridges would strengthen their argument for a Fife regional road.
The question still to be answered is how useful will the bridge be to heavy commer cial vehicles? Local opinion puts it at no greater than that about 10 per cent passenger traffic will benefit by the opening of new routes between Dundee and North and East Fife. There will be additional stage and express carriage services and certainly one can visualize heavy saloon car traffic during the holiday season. It does, however, appear that the commercial vehicle operator will gain nothing except, of course, where he is moving from the southern precinct of the bridge into Dundee.
I was unable to find any heavy haulier who had re-routed his vehicles at this stage to use the bridge on a long haul. The old route from the north, thence via Perth, still seems to be favourite. The whole question revolves around the link roads. Dates for proposed completion of a regional road in Fife range from 1968 to 1972, and I suspect one will require to wait until the completion of this road before we can hope to measure the effect of the bridge.
It does seem that here the cart was placed before the horse. The time and money spent on the bridge could well have been devoted to the extension of M90 the Fife regional road. In fact, this would have been classed as trunk road development and would surely qualify for a government grant. This would have lead geographically and logically to the construction of a bridge.
Assuming that such a road were approved now it would be completed almost as soon as the government would have been prepared to sanction a grant for the bridge. I would like to think that I am wrong but I fear that until adequate link roads are constructed the Tay Road Bridge will serve about as much purpose as the Bass Rock— a tourist attraction.