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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee 29 November 2017

Agenda: Forth Replacement Crossing (Update}, Implications of European Union Referendum, Subordinate Legislation


Contents


Forth Replacement Crossing (Update}

Good morning, and welcome to the 34th meeting in 2017 of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. I remind everyone to ensure that their mobile phones are on silent.

Agenda item 1 is an update on the Forth replacement crossing. This evidence session will take us forward from our previous update. On 27 November, the committee received a written update from Transport Scotland providing details of the snagging work that will start this week and will require partial closure of the new crossing for several days. I welcome from the Scottish Government Michelle Rennie, the director of major transport infrastructure projects, and Lawrence Shackman, the project manager. From Amey, we have Mark Arndt, who is representing the operating company for the Forth bridges.

Lawrence, would you like to make a short opening statement?

Lawrence Shackman (Transport Scotland)

Actually, Michelle Rennie is going to do it.

I am sorry. My mistake. Michelle, would you like to make a short opening statement?

Thank you. Please excuse my voice, and thank you for providing me with an opportunity to update the committee on the progress that has been made since our last appearance, on 28 June 2017.

I can confirm that the project outturn cost range remains at £1.325 billion to £1.35 billion. The Queensferry crossing opened to traffic on 30 August 2017 as planned, and the four days of opening events gave nearly 70,000 people the opportunity to see the new bridge at close quarters. The Queensferry crossing experience walk across the new crossing took place on 2 and 3 September, with 97 per cent of those who were successful in the ballot process actually participating on the day, which is a remarkably high participation rate for a free event of such scale. It provided a wonderful opportunity for charity fundraising and more than £100,000 was raised through the JustGiving page for the event, in addition to the money that was raised for charities by individuals.

Participants recognised the truly historic nature of the event. People with connections to the area, and particularly to the bridges, travelled from far and near to be part of it. Many used the occasion as an opportunity to recognise their personal challenges, and I was humbled to hear so many stories of personal bravery and achievement—including those relating to marriage proposals. It all contributed to an extremely positive event that I am sure will in time become an important part of Scottish history.

The official opening took place on the morning of 4 September and was performed by Her Majesty the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh. The date was of particular local significance, in that it was the 53rd anniversary of the opening of the Forth road bridge in 1964. The weather on the day was not so favourable, but that provided a flavour of the challenges that the men and women who worked on the project had faced and overcome.

Opportunities to participate in the opening events were highly sought after. The five major events, which took place in the space of just over a week, were organised to meet unprecedented demand from the public, local MSPs and councillors, international and United Kingdom media, stakeholders, schools and local communities. Because of the high public demand for tickets for the Queensferry crossing experience—more than 226,000 people applied for 50,000 tickets—an additional schools and community day was arranged for 5 September, which gave more than 6,000 pupils, teachers and parents from the 13 schools nearest to the project the chance to walk across the bridge. It also provided an opportunity for local community groups to access the crossing in the afternoon and evening of that day. Face-to-face and social media feedback for all those events was extremely positive.

The event to light up the Queensferry crossing was organised specifically to thank the workers, and to showcase them alongside the iconic bridge that they were responsible for building. The spectacular videos and images from that event gained wide international media attention from, among others, CNN, The New York Times, Al Jazeera and the South China Morning Post. The extensive media coverage promoted Scotland and the three bridges as unique visitor destinations.

Overall, the events showcased the incredible achievement of the workforce and a new iconic Scottish landmark. Since August, the Forth road bridge viewing platform has welcomed more than 30,000 visitors. Initial evaluation shows that print media coverage alone generated additional advertising-value-equivalent coverage worth £1.2 million.

The new roads and Queensferry crossing reopened to traffic in the early hours of 7 September, and in the first few days the crossing was extremely busy. We believe that that was primarily because of bridge tourists, many of whom were observed crossing the bridge several times, which they did by looping around at the Ferrytoll and South Queensferry junctions. That caused some disruption to local traffic because of the unusual traffic patterns that it created.

We have been closely monitoring traffic flows throughout the period and I can report that, following the first two weeks of operation, traffic has settled down to more normal patterns that are consistent with the patterns that existed prior to the opening of the Queensferry crossing. It is worth reminding the committee that the project was originally designated as the Forth replacement crossing. It was designed to maintain traffic flows at least at 2006 levels, not to increase capacity. At that time, it was determined that any future traffic increases would be accommodated through use of the Forth road bridge as a public transport corridor.

The project has been opened to traffic in a phased manner. Following completion of the connecting roads at the north end of the Forth road bridge, that route was reopened to scheduled bus services on 13 October. The footprint of the temporary traffic management was subsequently reduced and the speed limit was increased from 40mph to 50mph on the Queensferry crossing and the approach roads on 6 November. The installation and commissioning of the intelligent transport system is going through its final stages on the scheme. Following removal of the remaining traffic management, the Queensferry crossing will have an increased speed limit of 70mph and the Forth road bridge will be opened to other buses, taxis and certain motorcyclists in December.

Works on the intelligent transport system and the structural health monitoring, as well as mechanical and electrical works, are continuing inside the bridge deck and the towers and piers. Regular handover meetings are being held with Amey, which is the Forth bridges operating company, to prepare it for taking over the operation and maintenance of the bridge and the approach roads.

Community relations with the north and south community forums—which are due to meet for the last time this evening—continue to be extremely good. The schools programme at the contact and education centre in South Queensferry, which has proved to be extremely popular, will continue to operate for the remainder of the academic year until June 2018, when its future use will be reviewed. To date, the project has hosted more than 75,000 visitors from around the globe, including 25,000 schoolchildren from across Scotland.

I thank the committee for giving me the opportunity to provide an update. Lawrence Shackman, Mark Arndt and I would welcome any questions that members might have for us.

Thank you very much. Stewart Stevenson will ask the first question.

Now that the bridge is a success, I can confess that I was, as the then Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change, responsible for the legislation that led to its being built. I took through the Forth Crossing Bill, apart from stage 3—as a result of that year’s winter’s snow—for which Keith Brown was the minister.

As the convener mentioned, some snagging work—which, I note, is around the joints—is to be done shortly. Historically, the joints have been the big issue on the Forth road bridge. Will the joints be a big problem on the new bridge? Was that expected?

You are correct in saying that the snagging issue is “around the joints”, but it is not due to the joints. The issue is the level of surfacing immediately adjacent to the joints and the effect that the level has on the joints. The surfacing has been laid marginally too high on either side of the joints, which is a workmanship issue. The joints are fine; the concern is about the impact that use of the road at 70mph would have on the joints, should traffic be allowed to traverse them at those speeds.

Will all the associated costs lie with the contractor?

Yes—that is correct. There is an opportunity in the contract for any defective works, or snagging issues, to be rectified. Snagging issues are a normal part of any major contract. People who have done up their own houses will appreciate that there are snagging issues even at that scale. All the costs that are associated with those snagging issues and finishing works will be borne by the contractor.

Does that include the costs of the diversions and things like that?

Michelle Rennie

Yes—the contractor will cover all costs.

I have quite a lot of questions. This all seems to have come at quite short notice—the issues have been a bit of a surprise. Is that a fair comment?

The issue with the levels at the joints was known about in August, prior to the opening of the bridge. What we did not fully understand then was what the impact of the level differences would be. At that point, the contractor was investigating with the joint supplier—the joints for the bridge are bespoke; no other is the same—whether there would be an opportunity to undertake a less disruptive solution.

There is another point to note. The road surfacing is at fault, and road surfacing is a weather-sensitive operation, so we did not want to alert the public to potential dates for carrying out the works only for the weather to change in the intervening period.

We have reasonable certainty with a five-day forecast, and we have more certainty about the first three days of that forecast. At this point, we are satisfied that we will have a sufficient weather window to allow us to start and complete the works within the period. However, we also have hold points within the works so that, were the weather to change during the period, we would still be able to get the road reopened by Wednesday morning at the latest.

How would you describe the potential disruption that you are planning for?

We have done some work on estimating the delays. It is likely that there will be delays of about two to four minutes in the morning and evening peaks. We will be providing exactly the same capacity—we will just be rerouting the southbound traffic.

Will you be reducing the speed limit?

Michelle Rennie

Yes—we will reduce the speed limit to 40mph on both bridges for the duration of the works.

I would like clarification on a matter. During your answer, I think that you said that it was a works defect, but previously you said that it was a design defect. Is it a design defect because the joints were not known about, or is it a defect in the surfacing?

Michelle Rennie

I apologise if I was not clear about that. It is a workmanship issue. The design is correct, but the surfacing that was laid was not within the tolerances that are set out in the design.

That issue was identified before the bridge was opened.

Michelle Rennie

That is correct.

Thank you for that clarification.

You knew in August that there would be a problem, but you need a window of opportunity in order to do the works. Why did the public hear about the issue only on Monday?

First of all, the contractor had not designed the solution until probably a couple weeks ago. As I said, the thing that causes greatest disruption on the road network is driver confusion, so we did not want to put out dates and then change them; rather, we wanted to put out dates about which we were reasonably certain. We could do that only once we had some clarity about what the weather window would be, particularly at this time of year. The works are vulnerable to heavy rain and also to particularly low temperatures, and—as the committee knows—the diversion route is vulnerable to particularly high winds. Therefore, we wanted to be quite certain about the weather window before we put out information, as we might otherwise have confused drivers.

09:45  

Is it fair to say that there are also problems with the wind shielding?

There are minor snagging issues with the wind shielding. They are nothing in comparison with what has been reported. There is a considerable amount of wind shielding on the bridge, some aspects of which need a bit of finishing work. We will look to do that, and any other work that we can get done, during the few days on which we have lane restrictions in place, in order to try to minimise any future disruption. Had we not had the days with lane closures in place, we could have done those works under hard-shoulder closures at night, in the normal way that maintenance is done on any such structure.

Who made the decision to proceed with opening the bridge knowing that there would be post-opening problems and that the bridge would have to be closed or partially closed at some point after opening?

There was no knowledge that the bridge would have to be partially closed post-opening. The view was taken that there were no safety implications in opening the bridge with a speed limit of 40mph and then increasing the speed limit to 50mph. Through discussions between the contractor and the joint manufacturer, it has become clear that there are potential issues in having a speed limit of 70mph. We want to ensure that we avoid such issues and that we do not anything that will impact the long-term durability of the joint.

The wording of the press release that came out on Monday, which I have in front of me, almost makes it sound as though the partial closure this week was part of the plan to achieve a speed limit of 70mph. However, from your evidence today, it sounds as though it was not part of the plan, so I am a bit confused. Was there always a plan for partial closure to address the surfacing issues that you knew about in August or is it a reaction to a problem that you have just discovered in the past few weeks?

The plan was always to phase in the 70mph limit. We have moved from 40mph to 50mph and we have always intended to move to 70mph. We knew that some finishing works would be required before we moved to 70mph. Until recently, we were not aware of what the solution would be for the surfacing works and what impacts that would have on road users or, indeed, what lane closures, if any, would be required.

Do you foresee any further closures or rerouting outside the emergency procedures of the bridge, of which you are aware now, as opposed to something that you might discover in the future?

Since before the bridge opened, we have consistently said that finishing and snagging works would be required. The contract allows for such works to happen until next September, at no additional cost. Therefore some additional works will go on throughout that period, which will include the things that I mentioned earlier, such as mechanical and electrical works, work on the intelligent transport system, work on the lifts for the towers and so on. There was no reason to delay opening the bridge for such works; they are entirely normal on any such infrastructure project.

I just want clarification on that point because, I say with the greatest respect, I do not think that the question was answered.

It will need to be a very concise question, as we have a lot of questions to get through.

Will there be further closures between now and next September?

Michelle Rennie

Yes—some lane restrictions will happen between now and September.

Thank you.

Gail Ross has a question. Just before I move on, I remember hearing evidence that one of the reasons for the bridge opening not coming as quickly as was originally anticipated was that resurfacing could not be done in cold weather. It appears that you are now doing resurfacing at potentially the coldest time of the year. Is that right, or have I misunderstood?

Resurfacing happens as a matter of course across the Scottish road network, whenever it is needed. Emergency repairs, in particular, take place all the time.

This is not a time of year at which we would necessarily choose to resurface, but it is okay because we have a weather window that allows us to do it. We are resurfacing 15m on each side, which is relatively straightforward. We probably would not choose to resurface the entire bridge at this time of year, because that would take much longer and there would be less certainty about the weather window.

Good morning, panel. I want to touch on something that Jamie Greene just said about on-going works. Michelle Rennie mentioned different things that are going to be happening over the course of the next year or so and said that those are par for the course with a major structure. Can you tell us a little bit more about those or—if it would be more convenient and would give us a bit more detail—write to the committee with a list of on-going projects and timescales?

Michelle Rennie

We will be happy to provide more information to the committee.

When will the Forth road bridge be fully open to public transport?

Lawrence Shackman

We intend to open the public transport corridor on the Forth road bridge before Christmas, as part of the operation to move to 70mph.

You say that that will coincide with the move to 70mph on the new bridge. Is the speed limit on the Forth road bridge going to be 70mph?

Lawrence Shackman

No. The speed limit on the Forth road bridge will be 50mph, as it always has been. Mark Arndt is probably better placed to tell you why it cannot be increased, the bridge being—

No—it is fine. I just wanted to clarify that.

Lawrence Shackman

The speed limit will be 50mph on the Forth road bridge and 70mph on the Queensferry crossing, subject to the variable mandatory speed limits.

I thought it would be strange if the speed limit suddenly went up.

I use the Queensferry crossing quite often, and I had hoped that the new crossing would mean that there would be fewer tailbacks at peak times, but that really has not changed. Do you think that the increase in speed will deal with that, or are the tailbacks at peak times something that we are just going to have to live with?

The increase from 40mph to 50mph has made some difference, because, when the vehicles are moving faster on the main carriageway, there are slightly bigger gaps between them. That makes it easier for traffic to merge from the slip roads. As we move to 70mph, the gaps between vehicles will become bigger still, so there will be more opportunity for traffic to merge.

Fundamentally, there are two lanes in each direction on the Queensferry crossing and there were—and still are—two lanes in each direction on the Forth road bridge, so there is no step change in capacity as such. We keep saying to people that the new crossing is a lot more resilient. We have already seen people whose vehicles have broken down being able to move over and use the hard shoulders, which has helped to keep the traffic moving on the bridge. The wind shielding has also provided a lot more resilience to wind-related incidents, and it will continue to do so.

I am concerned that the right lessons should be learned for major projects in the future. I use the crossing regularly—at least twice a week—and there was huge congestion in the early days, which I put down to the 40mph speed restriction. As soon as that restriction was lifted, it was obvious to me that moving to 50mph had made a huge difference to the congestion, which is interesting in relation to what has just been said. If only we had had the 50mph speed limit at the beginning, we would not have had all the congestion issues that people were getting anxious about. I accept that, in the initial few days, there may have been tourism and people looking at the bridge; however, when that was away and people were using the bridge regularly, we still had congestion. It was not until 6 November that we managed suddenly to get that to ease.

In an ideal world, the speed limit would have been 50mph when the crossing opened, but there were other reasons for the congestion such as the finishing of some central reserve barrier works at either end of the bridge that had to be undertaken as part of the transfer of traffic from the Forth road bridge to the Queensferry crossing. We could not do that work with the traffic moving at 50mph; we had to limit it to 40mph for safety reasons.

Why did we not just make sure that all the work was done before we opened the bridge, so that we would not have all that congestion over those weeks?

Lawrence Shackman

We could not transfer the traffic over to the new bridge. We had gaps in the central reserve to get the traffic through to the Forth road bridge—

No, no. My point is this: why did we open on time when the work was not done? We could have made sure that the work was done and then opened the crossing with the speed limit at 50mph, and there would have been no congestion.

It was physically impossible to do that without moving the traffic around. You may remember that the traffic was orientated so that someone who was coming from the north would travel across the emergency link on the north side of the bridge, and the northbound traffic also went through the central reserve gap on to the new northbound carriageway as it came from the Forth road bridge. There was a gap in the central reserve.

I understand now.

Michelle Rennie

On the wider question about learning for the future, where we can—and where it is safe to do so—we incentivise contractors to run temporary traffic management schemes at 50mph. We have done that on the M8.

Okay. I am pleased to hear that.

Michelle Rennie said that there has been no step change in capacity. There are two lanes in each direction, so there are still four lanes, as there were before, for most traffic that crosses the Forth. However, if we include the hard shoulders, the total capacity is six lanes on the new bridge and four on the old bridge, so we have a total of 10 lanes but are using only four for most traffic. Will consideration be given to using more of those 10 lanes at some point?

This goes back to Stewart Stevenson’s point. The Forth Crossing Act 2011 was predicated on there not being a step change in capacity from 2006 levels—the act was ostensibly based on those levels. Any increase in demand to cross the Forth was to be met by public transport. Although, in theory, there is a lot more capacity, as you rightly say, the policy is to promote public transport to fulfil the requirement to cross the Forth. No one has a crystal ball. There might be a change of policy in the future and the configuration could change. However, the Forth Crossing Act 2011 was not predicated on that.

Michelle Rennie

We expect to be able to maximise the efficiency of the new infrastructure when all the intelligent transport systems are fully operational, using ramp metering and the like to control queuing.

Do you want to ask a follow-up question, Rhoda?

I will leave it at that.

I have a wee follow-up to an earlier discussion. At the pre-planning stage, was any consideration given to making the new crossing a three-lane crossing?

Some flexibility is built into the project. As I said, if there were to be a change in policy in the future, it would be possible to convert the hard shoulders to running lanes and to have all-lane running, as it is called elsewhere in the UK. That possibility exists if people want to pursue it in the future.

Thank you.

Michelle Rennie gave a good overview of the Queensferry crossing experience and its outcomes. I was one of the lucky people who attended. I was able to take my two children across the bridge, and I thank Transport Scotland and the committee clerks for setting up that great day. There has been some discussion of the cost of the event. Has there been any analysis of the benefits for the local area, in terms of jobs and productivity?

It is quite early days to understand the full impact. We are satisfied with the media exposure that we had. VisitScotland has given us some statistics: it thinks that its social media reached 1.9 million people. The news about the new bridge—the only one of its kind in the world—has reached right across the globe. There is no doubt that we have had a level of exposure that we have never had before.

10:00  

The messaging on all of that has been overwhelmingly positive. It has been about Scotland being a good place to live and work in and about the uniqueness of an area where there are three bridges from three centuries. We will look to capitalise on that, and there is work going on in Fife Council’s tourism strategy to identify what can be done about having a visitor centre in the area. I mentioned the contact and education centre, and there is the potential to use that area to capitalise on some of that. As I also mentioned, there is no doubt that interest in the area has peaked in the past few months, with 32,000 people visiting the viewing platform. Those numbers have been unheard of up to this point.

I was trying to ascertain whether you are satisfied that the costs of putting on such an experience, which will be questioned—rightly, because that is our job—are offset by the potential benefits to both the local and surrounding areas and nationally.

We were pretty satisfied with what we got. We considered putting on additional events in North and South Queensferry, but further analysis showed that, because of the road network in the area, adding more traffic into those areas would have compromised the quality of the main events that we had on offer and the ability of people to get to and from those events. As a result, we kept the focus on local people who had witnessed the construction of the schemes. We provided some animation in South Queensferry—flags, bunting and the like—and kept that up until the cruise ship came in, a couple of weeks after the main events. We also ran some tea parties and the like. Overall, the local community seemed to be quite happy with the level of engagement.

Excellent.

I can confirm that you kindly sent a letter to the committee outlining the costs—which came to £3.5 million—and one or two other points. Thank you for that.

Following on from Fulton MacGregor’s question, I understand that you had a number of community forums during the running of the project and that Transport Scotland provided regular project updates. Do you feel that those were successful, on the whole?

Yes. I have been part of the community forums right from the start, pre-construction, and they have been very constructive. They have provided a great opportunity for local communities to come and ask questions and for the project team to provide information on events both current and future and, basically, to embrace the local community as much as we could. We explained why things had gone in a certain direction when there were issues, and we took constructive criticism on board when that was levelled at us. We tried to build bridges—if you will excuse the pun—with the local communities, and that has been very successful. The three-month interval was about right as well.

Sorry—what was the three-month interval?

Lawrence Shackman

Each of the community forums has been held every three months throughout the project.

Okay.

For the general public, that has been supplemented with the community update leaflets, which have typically gone out three monthly as well. Also, for those in and around the project, more widely in Scotland and elsewhere around the world, the websites have provided a plethora of information from old documentation about the reasoning for the project to traffic management updates for current and upcoming events. Generally, I would like to think that the communication with the local communities and more widely has been very positive.

I understand that it now takes longer for some South Queensferry residents to get to Edinburgh, because they cannot get on to the roundabout off Ferrymuir Road.

Lawrence Shackman

That is right.

Did they understand beforehand that that was going to happen?

We explained that extensively to the local communities at the planning stage, and it was also brought to the fore during consideration of the Forth Crossing Bill. Some people have further to travel, but there are also a lot of people who have less distance to travel. There was a balance to be struck, and that influenced the positioning of the junction back in 2009 and 2010, when the bill was being considered. There was a lot of discussion with the local community on the matter.

Are there any lessons from your consultation forums and so on that other, perhaps smaller, projects can learn?

Yes. For a start, you should engage with the community as much and as early as you can, and that early engagement should involve having meaningful discussions. Looking back, I would say that, when members of the community asked us questions, we sometimes did not have the information to give them the answers. That is the point at which the project team need to go away, do their homework and come back with high-quality information. Indeed, they might come back with two or three options in response to a question from a member of the public. It is very important to engage at an early stage, and that lesson is applicable to any project of any size anywhere.

The other key lesson is in the use of technology to help people to understand what a project will look like. We had a virtual reality model that allowed people to visualise what the project was going to look like, and we used that extensively in the early stages to show landscaping, the distance from a person’s house to the road and the kinds of impact that there would be and how they might be best mitigated.

We are learning a lot of lessons from the Forth replacement crossing that can be applied to our other projects. For the A9, our intention is to enhance our engagement with schools and build a programme of engagement with, for example, the 11-year-olds who will be ready to enter the market as apprentices and graduates when the road is being built. We are also running a programme that ties in with curriculum for excellence, and we are working with the local universities and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association to develop apprentice and graduate routes.

For some of our smaller projects, we are trying to identify dedicated resources for community engagement. In the past, we might have got this kind of thing wrong because people were doing it as a bolt-on to their day job whereas, in fact, communities expect and are entitled to a little bit more nowadays.

Good morning, panel. I am grateful to Mr Shackman for outlining the purpose of the legislation, the issue of capacity and the role that is played by public transport.

The Forth replacement crossing public transport strategy was initially published in 2012, and, according to the most recent update, the group involved last met in April. What plans, if any, are there to promote cross-Forth bus services now that the crossing is open? How do you envisage the public transport strategy being implemented?

Lawrence Shackman

Actually, the most recent public transport working group meeting took place on 24 October, so it was very recent.

I stand corrected.

That meeting was attended by all the relevant bus companies—Lothian Buses, Stagecoach, First UK Bus—as well as the Confederation of Passenger Transport and the local authorities, and one thing to come out of it was a positive outlook among the bus operators with regard to patronage at Halbeath park and ride and Ferrytoll park andride. I believe that those are both over 90 per cent full on most days, which is a good and positive sign as far as encouraging people to use public transport is concerned.

You are right in saying that the public transport strategy was published a while ago. The idea now is to reproduce the interventions table that was included in that strategy and provide an update on where they are. We will publish that in the coming months to ensure that everyone is clear about how each of the interventions has progressed. For those who are not familiar with them, the interventions include the introduction and implementation of hard shoulder running as part of the Fife ITS project on the north side of the Forth. That is now complete, and that measure, which was originally intended to be temporary, is now permanent, because it has been successful, it is safe and it operates well.

Some of the more wide-ranging interventions, which include potential bus improvements at Newbridge junction, will be either progressed via the relevant local authority or considered further in the next stage of the strategic transport projects review. There will be a commentary on each of the interventions in the update that will be published in 2018.

Thanks very much for that. I have previously asked questions about that particular subject—especially the implications for additional public transport beyond the scope of the bridge, as it were. I therefore find it interesting that you have mentioned Newbridge. Has any assessment been made of that? After all, we want to encourage greater use of public transport.

There has been no assessment as such. Stagecoach, which is the main operator of the Forth corridor, is keen to see how the project performs once it is completely open and the managed crossing strategy is fully in place, because it will then be able to gauge where new services might be introduced or existing services adjusted to suit the demands of people crossing the Forth.

Moreover, Transport Scotland and Fife Council have been working on the Fife in the fast lane marketing campaign, which aims to promote the park-and-ride sites even more, to highlight not only bus travel but the very valuable asset of the train as a means of crossing the Forth and to encourage the use of smart cards and smart tickets. After all, it is easier to buy tickets with such cards. In fact, the second phase of the campaign will look at the interoperability of smart cards to ensure that they can be used across several modes, and the Forth corridor is the focus of that. A lot is already going on, but there is more to do to promote public transport across the Forth.

That is very reassuring. Thank you.

We have already talked about the lessons learned about how we manage relationships, but are there any internal lessons for Transport Scotland to learn about how it might manage things? When I lectured postgraduates on project management, I always said, “Successful projects need an intelligent buyer.” Is Transport Scotland learning any lessons from this for procurement, financial planning control, relationships with contractors and so on to ensure that it is a more intelligent buyer in future?

I hope so. One of the many things that have come out of the process relates to our attitude to and quantification of risk. One particularly successful aspect of this contract is that we have spent a lot of time identifying the risks, allocating sums of money to them and putting in place strategies for managing them. We and the contractor clearly understand who bears the liability for each of the risks, which avoids the need for argument or litigation further down the line.

Did you have a risk register that was agreed and shared between you, as the purchaser, and the contractor?

During the construction phase, each organisation had its own risk register, because by that point the liabilities had already been split and were well understood. However, throughout the construction period—which, after all, is the most expensive time—we had a very good handle on our financial management, and, as part of our governance, we were reviewing that very frequently at project level, through a sub-group to our project board and through our project board itself. The issue was therefore getting a lot of scrutiny.

10:15  

In terms of expertise, we employed people who were experienced bridge builders. Bridge building is a very specialist area and it was important that we employed people who clearly understood what was involved in that.

I suppose that we have learned a little about how we communicate the challenges of building civil engineering projects, such as the potential impact of the weather. We allowed a significant time allocation for weather in the project but, as you know, it was not quite enough.

It is clear that you have learned a lot of lessons. I know that other members have questions.

There is time for a follow-up question if you want to ask one.

I am quite happy for Michelle Rennie to continue, if she wants to do so.

I was going to add that, only last week, the World Economic Forum published an article that compared the Queensferry crossing project with the new Bay bridge project in San Francisco, which said that Scotland got it right and America did not do so well. It said:

“Three good practices contributed to the high quality process and outcomes: the UK planners diagnosed the problem early; took their time with careful design upfront; and built and sustained an inclusive coalition of stakeholders. The evidence speaks for itself.”

The article was really quite complimentary about everything that we have done in the development of the Queensferry crossing.

We have a huge lessons-learned log, which we continue to update to reflect the final parts of the project—we are doing that at the moment. I could spend a day, literally, going through all the lessons that we have learned, whether they are to do with governance, risk, practical design, people—

Well, let me ask one supplementary, if I may. A big area of risk in any big project is change, and there is no big project in which there is no change—I think that a project dies when there is no change. Did you have an effective method of identifying, controlling and allocating responsibility for change, which will help you in future projects?

Yes. I think that there are two sides to that. During the design and development stage, when we worked with our consultants, we had a change control mechanism. We had an initial plan of work. For example, the original assumption, way back in early 2008, was that the Forth road bridge would not be used in future, but the project team thought that it would be sensible to reconsider that. One of the change controls involved having a detailed look at what use could be made of the Forth road bridge. There was careful, detailed work, which eventually formed the managed crossing strategy that we are realising.

When we work with a contractor, there are various mechanisms in the contract for varying the contract—we try our hardest not to vary a contract; we want to keep it as defined, so that it is tight. There are also mechanisms in there for the contractor to suggest changes; cost-sharing initiatives can come to the fore, which can benefit both parties.

There is a fine line between fixing the scope and a fixed outturn cost, and being able to take advantage of innovation and good ideas as they arise. That highlights the importance of the governance regime. We had wide representation on our project board, which included stakeholders, finance colleagues in the Scottish Government, industry representatives and people who had delivered different kinds of project in the past. The various views from the project board gave us quite a balanced opinion.

What was particularly useful was that the people who were empowered to make the decisions were independent of the project team but sufficiently close to the project to have good visibility on what was happening and the impact of decisions, so that decisions could be taken quickly—because sometimes even when something is a good idea, if we do not act at the right time, we lose the momentum and the benefit. That was very important.

I worked on software projects. They were much more complex in change terms but we always had the option of dumping the difficult changes into phase 2. You had no phase 2.

Michelle Rennie

Indeed.

The Scottish Government awarded a five-year contract for the management, maintenance and operation of the Forth road bridge and, when completed, the Queensferry crossing, to Amey on 18 December 2014, so that will come up for renewal in 2019. Is there a warranty period for the Queensferry crossing, and how will any warranty repairs be managed? I take it that the contractor is responsible for the warranty and not Amey.

There is a five-year defects correction period, which is the normal provision for projects such as this, so in the event that any defects arise over that period, they will be the responsibility of the contractor, and that is provided for within the expenditure that we have had on this job.

What responsibilities for the management and maintenance of the Queensferry crossing have been transferred to Amey to date, and are any responsibilities still to be transferred? Were there any transfers under TUPE—the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations—when you took over the bridge, and if any of your workers were to be transferred elsewhere under TUPE, would Amey make redundancy payments?

Amey was awarded the contract in 2014 but, to enable service delivery, we had a six-month mobilisation period, so the contract period commenced on 1 June 2015. From that date, there is an initial five-year contract period, which is extendable up to 10 years under our existing contract. All staff who were previously with the Forth Estuary Transport Authority transferred to Amey under the TUPE legislation at that time. Indeed, 95 per cent of those employees are probably still with us—a few have left through retirements, resignations and the like.

We have no ambition to make any redundancies. On the contrary, we are a growth organisation and, when the Queensferry crossing is fully transferred to us, we will have additional obligations. We are looking to increase, rather than reduce, employment. Amey is a multinational company, which engages in dozens of TUPE transfers every year under different contracts. We have specific teams that specialise in that and, at the time of mobilisation or demobilisation of contracts, there is a team dedicated to support the resource management at the time.

Amey is a big company with its headquarters in Oxford.

Mark Arndt

That is correct.

If Amey is transferring people under TUPE and they are not taken on by another company, does it pay redundancy?

Mark Arndt

No, we do not look to make anybody redundant. The TUPE employees either have an option to retain employment with Amey, which might be under another contract or in a similar role, or—

What if there are no jobs with Amey?

Mark Arndt

There is an obligation—

There is a specific reason why I am asking that question. You may want to tell your colleagues in North Lanarkshire to get on with sorting something out. Basically, I want to know whether Amey pays redundancy.

Mark Arndt

Of course we pay redundancy, but not associated with TUPE.

If there is a specific issue in North Lanarkshire, it may be appropriate for Mr Lyle to write regarding that.

It is okay—I have got my point across, thank you.

Mark, you can very much take it that your answers are to do with the bridge and leave it at that. You have made quite a clear statement on that, but if you want to add anything, I am happy to take it.

Mark Arndt

Only to say that I have nothing to do with North Lanarkshire.

I am happy to ignore the comments about North Lanarkshire and move on to Mr Chapman with a short question.

Amey manages the approach roads north and south of the bridge. How does it intend to engage with road users and communities at either end of the bridge in the near future?

As Lawrence Shackman said, there is already a strong community engagement programme, and we will look to continue that. We currently participate in the Forth bridges forum. As part of that, there are various community and public engagement events, which we will target at appropriate times, when there is something to tell the communities.

We have a strong community engagement presence in the Forth bridges area. We engage with the community councils on both sides of the bridge and, this summer, we refurbished South Queensferry community centre free of charge. Every Amey employee is entitled to one day’s paid community service. At the Forth bridges, we employ about 100 staff, each of whom is eligible to take that.

We work with the communities to identify targeted and focused community engagement events. As Lawrence Shackman said, we will look to continue the current successful programme.

We are just about to publish an updated document on engaging with communities, “Forth Bridges: Operation and Maintenance”, which outlines how people can contact any part of the project in relation to a piece of maintenance work on the Forth road bridge or the Queensferry crossing and sets out how engagement will continue into the future.

Are there any plans for significant maintenance on the Forth road bridge? If there are, how will that affect the ability of cyclists and pedestrians to cross the bridge?

A huge capital investment programme for the coming years is already under way. Pedestrians and cyclists will be largely unaffected by any of the works. We keep at least one of the cycle footways open at all times, except during events such as wind closures.

You are probably familiar with the truss end link project, which closed the bridge a couple of years ago. The damaged link has been entirely replaced and a successful trial undertaken, and the remaining seven links are being replaced at the moment.

A cable investigation is going to be undertaken, the contract for which has been awarded. The work will commence in earnest in springtime, when there are more favourable conditions for working at height.

The joints have already been mentioned. The existing joints on the Forth road bridge are more than 50 years old—they are probably the oldest of their kind in Europe. There is a tender out for that project, the bids for which are due back tomorrow. Similarly, that work will commence in the new year. In addition, we are undertaking resurfacing and waterproofing trials on the Forth road bridge, together with our usual routine, cyclic maintenance. There is a huge investment programme.

There is a fair bit of work going on. What is the predicted lifespan of the old bridge? Is there a date for when it will finally have to close?

Mark Arndt

I am not aware of it ever having to finally close.

I am not sure that that is in anyone’s gift to say at the moment.

The point has been made that it would be very helpful for the committee to have a list of the on-going works to the Queensferry crossing, and following Peter Chapman’s questions, it would be helpful for the committee to have a schedule of proposed works to the Forth road bridge so that we know what work is to be undertaken.

Sadly, we are now out of time. I thank the three witnesses for giving evidence to the committee.

10:29 Meeting suspended.  

10:32 On resuming—