The world’s most expensive bridge

By Lauren Gelling

The Scottish Parliament is set to investigate the proposed £2 billion cost of the new Forth Road Bridge.

The transport and  finance committees will both look into why Transport Scotland have estimated such high amount for the structure, which is officially named the ‘Forth Replacement Crossing’.

 The average cost of major road bridges around the world is less than £200,000 per metre, according to a recent survey.  The cost of the new bridge, which will link Edinburgh to Fife, is valued at £750,ooo a metre, making it one of the world’s most expensive bridges.

A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “The main contract to build the bridge and the associated motorway connecting roads will be issued to tender next month. We expect the cost of that contract to be between £900m and £1.2bn when it is returned in 2010.  Of that construction cost, we expect the cost of building the bridge to account for around 70 per cent. The estimated cost of the new bridge has been benchmarked against international comparisons and compares favourably with other similar structures around the world.”

Because the bridge is not set to be delivered until 2016, Transport Scotland say that they have taken a variety of factors such as VAT and inflation into account.
The spokesman continued:  “The requirements of the bridge mean it will feature large spans – significantly larger than other comparable structures – which have to be constructed in a marine environment across important shipping lanes. These and other important factors – such as inflation, land costs, the amount of new connecting roads – all contribute to the cost, making superficial comparisons with other bridges misleading.”

Edinburgh’s Transport Convener, Gordon Mackenzie, said:  “The fact that these committees want to look at the Forth Replacement Crossing is unsurprising given the recent history of difficulties experienced by high profile public construction projects e.g. Scottish Parliament and Edinburgh Trams.  Equally, there has to be proper scrutiny of such a major spending commitment. We have to examine the assumptions behind the existing figures. I’m no expert but there are major differences between the costs of construction in Hong Kong and Scotland. Whether these justify the level of costs estimates is something for industry experts to comment on.

“However, leaving aside the cost issue, I believe there are significant flaws in the current proposals. As proposed, the new bridge will largely replicate the traffic problems we experience with the current bridge.  Edinburgh, Fife, West Lothian and Midlothian Councils + SESTrans will shortly be issuing a joint press statement calling for the package to include funding for key elements of the public transport alternatives to be funded and will lobby for those to be included in the Bill as it goes through parliament.”