Following the publication of the Travel Plan to address the necessary Forth Road Bridge closure last week, further enhancements will come into effect which will benefit local businesses and communities, Transport Minister Derek Mackay announced today.
A dedicated Heavy Goods Vehicle/buses only corridor on the A985 will now be open to all light goods vehicles around the clock starting this Monday, with any restrictions lifted at weekends to provide full access to the A985 to all vehicles.
Restrictions to the A985 priority route will be lifted completely on 23rd December to coincide with the start of the holiday period.
Mr Mackay said:
“Since the closure of the bridge and the publication of our travel plan to mitigate its impact, we have been monitoring performance and listening to our stakeholders, including communities and business organisations.
“The travel plan has seen a 40% increase in rail services and thousands of extra seats, and our bus partner Stagecoach is running more services, including enhanced connections from Fife and Edinburgh and links to Edinburgh trams at Ingliston, to encourage public transport use and relieve pressure on roads around the bridge.
“Clearly the closure of the bridge has had a significant impact, particularly on small and medium sized businesses, and we and our transport partners have been listening to business community views since the travel plan was implemented.
“To address their feedback, from this Monday all commercial light goods vehicles will be allowed 24 hour a day access to the A985 priority route.
“We have also responded to community needs, and so can confirm that all vehicles will have access to the priority route at weekends and outside peak periods on weekdays. We also intend to lift restrictions on the priority route completely on the 23rd of this month to coincide with the start of the holiday period.
“I believe this will provide assurances to those businesses and communities affected by the bridge closure that we are doing everything possible to ensure access to the local and national economy allowing them as far as possible to go about their day to day business.”
Superintendent Fraser Candlish of the Police Scotland Road Policing Unit said:
"With these new enhancements for the A985 it is important that drivers check and understand how it affects them before starting their journey.
"We have been patrolling the diversion routes every day since the closure and I would thank drivers for their patience. I know it is a challenging time for everyone but if we all play our part, any hold ups can be kept to a minimum.
"Our primary focus is to keep people safe and I would urge all motorists to pay close attention to their driving, particularly when on unfamiliar roads or when the weather is poor."
Further transport enhancements have also been introduced - Stagecoach are also diverting services between Fife and Edinburgh to Ingliston Park & Ride to better connect journeys to Edinburgh Airport and the tram network.
Andrew Jarvis, Managing Director, Stagecoach East Scotland added:
"The implementation of the bus and HGV priority measures have meant journey times from Fife to Edinburgh are just 90 minutes and we've been able to increase the frequency of services as a result. With more people heading for the buses, traffic on the roads should be that bit quieter and we have a reduced fare of £3 return in place to help ease the cost of the commute.
“The change of stopping arrangements on our shuttle services to serve Ingliston P&R on the way into Edinburgh will provide easier links to the airport, with agreement from Edinburgh Trams to carry our passengers from the Park & Ride to the airport for free, as well as providing many more journey options to other parts of the city using the trams, or a P&R site for those commuting to Fife."
Eric Byiers, Chief Executive of Fife Chamber of Commerce welcomed the change and added “ The need for keeping a close eye on how the travel plan was working was raised at the discussion with the Deputy First Minister earlier this week – as was the suggestion to open the Priority Route to LGV’s. We welcome the change announced today which we believe it will be of assistance to businesses in Fife and beyond. The new arrangements will also have to be closely monitored and policed but from correspondence we’ve received it has clearly been an issue for businesses making deliveries and accessing work locations in the area and this should help both businesses and their customers.”
FSB’s Scottish Policy Convener, Andy Willox, said:
“We’re delighted that the government has listened to the FSB and accepted the vital role our members play in keeping Scotland’s economy moving.
“By allowing vans and other light goods vehicles to use the priority route, more essential journeys can be completed is less time. Tradesmen with deadlines to meet, wholesalers with shops to supply and couriers with customers’ Christmas presents to deliver will be spending more time doing business and less time stuck in traffic.”