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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 March 2006, 18:32 GMT
Bridge tolls shake-up announced
Forth Road Bridge
Tolls will remain on the Forth Road Bridge
Tolls are being scrapped on the Erskine Bridge but will remain on the Tay and Forth bridges, the transport minister has announced.

The Erskine toll will be scrapped on 31 March, Tavish Scott said in a ministerial statement on Wednesday.

Mr Scott rejected plans to increase the fee on the Forth Road Bridge from 1 to 4 at peak times.

He said ministers also agreed to start planning for a replacement Forth crossing at South Queensferry.

The Forth Estuary Transport Authority (Feta) had wanted to raise tolls from 1 for cars to a maximum charge of 4 for single occupancy vehicles at peak times.

Mr Scott announced the toll shake-up after considering proposals in the Bridges Review, the assessment of corrosion in the main suspension cable of the Forth Road Bridge and Feta's application to raise tolls.

Each bridge has its own unique circumstances - different traffic patterns and levels of congestion
Tavish Scott
Transport Minister

The minister said: "The Bridges Review focused on the Tay, Forth and Erskine bridges.

"Each bridge has its own unique circumstances - different traffic patterns and levels of congestion. No 'one size fits all' approach is therefore viable, hence today's decisions for the three bridges.

"Cabinet today agreed we need to start planning now for a replacement Firth of Forth crossing given the findings of corrosion in the Forth Road Bridge.

"There are no immediate safety concerns - but there are two potential long-term problems."

Ease congestion

Mr Scott said the "optimistic time frame" for another crossing would be 2014.

Campaigners urging the removal of the Erskine tolls said the bridge, wholly owned by the Scottish Executive, relieved traffic congestion from Glasgow's Kingston Bridge and Clyde Tunnel.

Announcing the Erskine tolls move, the minister said: "Construction costs have been met, although there are on-going maintenance requirements.

"Removing the tolls would ease congestion, particularly through the Clyde Tunnel and the Clydeside Expressway."

Bridge tolls: your views

Fife MSPs had warned against scrapping the Erskine tolls and retaining the Tay and Forth charges.

Bruce Crawford, the Scottish National Party MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, accused the minister of "blatant discrimination" against the people of Fife.

"I am utterly bewildered about the lack of strategic thinking and the sheer political opportunism being shown by the transport minister and his Labour colleagues," he said.

"From today, Tavish Scott will forevermore be known as the minister who left the Tay and Forth Road Bridge users as the only people continuing to pay the toll tax in Scotland."

Scottish Tory transport spokesman David Davidson said: "The futures of the Erskine and Tay Bridges are not in doubt and these bridges should be treated the same.

'Tolls should go'

"If the toll is to go on the Erskine Bridge then it should go on the Tay as well."

Mr Davidson said that since the future of the Forth Road Bridge was far from certain, the 1 toll should remain.

The Scottish Greens said they were disappointed with the decision to scrap tolls and instead called for a "smart tolls" system targeting single occupancy vehicles at peak times.

Party co-convener Shiona Baird said: "These decisions come from the same people who think building more motorways in Glasgow and around Aberdeen will solve congestion.

"So I am not surprised that Tavish Scott and Nicol Stephen have again come up with a non-answer to the problems faced by motorists and users of public transport alike.

"All removing the tolls will do is encourage more traffic, which will create congestion a little further down the road."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Listen to the views of MSPs on the tolls issue


Watch the announcement on the tolls



SEE ALSO:
Groups urge halt to bridge plans
28 Feb 06 |  Scotland
Forth bridge traffic on the rise
25 Feb 06 |  Scotland
Charge powers 'no link to tolls'
21 Feb 06 |  Scotland
Fresh call for bridge toll purge
22 Dec 04 |  Scotland


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