FETA should not be so quick to blow its own trumpet on bridge management

We note from the letters of Councillor Tony Martin, of FETA, and Cllr Russell Imrie, of SESTRAN, that they rush to defend their own public organisations and not address the main substance of our article, ie that all the published figures do not add up to support a second road-only bridge, possibly with trams, as long proposed by Transport Scotland.

In our original article, we did raise the issue of the good work done by SESTRAN on the SITCoS Report. We understand that there is series of other reports commissioned by them on the Forth crossing from external consultants. Indeed, the figures of 2,000 more passenger places in the morning rush-hour on the trains by 2026, and the fact that a road-only bridge, if built, would be as congested as the existing FRB by 2032 comes directly from SESTRAN's own 2005 SITCoS Report.

We regret that Cllr Martin, as the newly-appointed FETA convener, has been badly informed on the history of the FRB problems. We would refer him to a "briefing note" prepared by the Scottish Parliamentary Information Centre (SPICe) entitled "The Forth Road Bridge" and dated 1 December, 2005. We based our claim that FETA had early warning in 1998 about problems with corrosion in cables in suspension bridges in the United States. FETA did nothing about this until late 2004 and only then by accident during a routine inspection. These problems were notified to the last Scottish Executive in December 2005. If this official Executive report is wrong in some way then we are, of course, prepared to apologise to Cllr Martin.

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Now that Cllr Martin has raised the subject of how well FETA is doing its job, we should point out that this same report states categorically that only a few strands of the cable are broken and that the life of the bridge is not impaired in the medium term. It goes on to recommend the appointment of contractors to wrap the cables and install dehumidification equipment to blow dry air through the cables. The price stated for this work (let us remind you that the report is dated December 2005) is 1.5 million. The report states that there is no guarantee that the process will work.

As Cllr Martin will recall, having been one of the board members of FETA in December 2006, the granting of the contract for the dehumidification was then sanctioned at the sum of 7.8 million of taxpayers' money. Would it, therefore, be unreasonable of us to point out that this is, yet again, an example of non-delivery on the part of FETA and ask whether a fivefold increase in the intervening one year is the mark of a "world beater", or represents endemic and terminal problems in an organisation which has a history of non-delivery, mismanagement and lack of budgetary control?

(CLLR) MARTIN DAY, West Lothian Council, and (CLLR) WILLIAM G WALKER, Fife Council

Councillor Tony Martin's view that FETA has dealt with the cable corrosion problem in an "exemplary" manner is not one shared by all board members. I have only been on the board since May and have questioned the FETA executive on a number of issues including corrosion.

I think the potential for corrosion, in what is essentially a marine enviroment, would have been obvious from the day the bridge was built.

I also have to defend my colleague Cllr Martin Day. His job is not merely to acquiesce and unreservedly praise the Executive. Like any board member of any company, his function and purpose, like mine and Cllr Martin's, is to look after tax payers' or shareholders' money. We were elected to scrutinise and question, not to rubber stamp.

(CLLR) IAN CHISHOLM, Lady Nairn Avenue, Kirkcaldy, Fife