Third Forth crossing inches closer 02 | 02 | 2011

    THE THIRD FORTH crossing has come closer to reality after the two bidders for the project handed in their final tenders for the £1 billion contract. The act was the final significant step before the contract is awarded in April; work is expected to start soon after the announcement of the contract winner is made and the deal signed.

    Eight of the world's most experienced bridge- builders and civil engineers, are competing for a contract worth between £900 million and £1.2bn. The project will result in a 1.7-mile double-span bridge and is expected to create 3000 jobs.

    Transport minister Keith Brown, who believes the new bridge — which has an estimated total cost of £2.3bn — is "absolutely vital" to Scotland's economy, is on course to be open in less than six years.

    "Both consortia bidding for this contract are led by world-class bridge building and civil engineering firms with strong records of successfully delivering similar projects throughout the world," Brown said.

    "The Forth Replacement Crossing is a major part of this government's programme of investment in Scotland's economy and it will safeguard a vital link in the country's transport infrastructure, protect thousands of jobs and secure over a billion pounds in economic revenue. The project remains on target to be completed, within budget, in 2016."

    And David Climie, the project's director, is under no illusion the work will deliver a major boost to Scotland's economy. The British Chamber of Commerce estimates the new crossing will be worth around £6bn in additional economic benefits.

    "The sheer scale of the project and the level of investment in this area during its construction period will no doubt bring significant opportunities for local business to benefit once the main contracts are awarded," he said.

    Not surprisingly, while Scotland's three major parties have backed the scheme, the Scottish Greens have opposed it, saying it is a misuse of money and a "serious squeeze on the public sector."

    "This is another step towards the most irresponsible misuse of public money Scotland has ever seen," Green MSP Patrick Harvie said. "SNP ministers have repeatedly refused to take the far cheaper option of repairing the existing bridge, and billions of pounds they now plan to blow on the additional bridge is coming directly from housing, health and education funding.

    "If it does go ahead, Alex Salmond's legacy will be a hard-hat photo-opportunity during the election, an unnecessary, unpopular and unsustainable new road, and a serious squeeze on the public sector."

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