HL Deb 22 July 1936 vol 102 cc158-83

VISCOUNT ELIBANK rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the strength of public opinion in Scotland in favour of the erection of a road bridge across the Firth of Forth at Queensferry as being very necessary for extending transport facilities in the East and from the South to the North of Scotland and for other important reasons; and further to ask that the requisite grant be provided from, the Road Fund so that the work of construction may be started as soon as possible in accordance with the comprehensive scheme which has already been drawn up and presented to the Ministry of Transport by the Edinburgh Corporation, the Fife County Council, and other local authorities principally concerned in the matter; and to move for Papers.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the Motion which I have on the Paper to-day has, as your Lordships know, been there for some considerable time, but I have had to postpone or defer it on two occasions, for reasons which I will recount to your Lordships directly. I should like to make my position clear in regard to this Motion. I have raised this matter of my own volition in this House, because, first of all, of the extent of feeling which exists in certain parts of Scotland, North, South and East, for the promotion of a road bridge across the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh. It is well known in Scotland that there are certain bodies and individuals who are very much in favour of the project outlined in my Motion, and in this regard, perhaps, I may be permitted to give a short history of how this subject has arisen.

As far back as 1923 Mr. Inglis Ker, of Edinburgh, promoted a proposal, if I may so put it, for erecting a bridge across the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh, and he was so successful in his efforts that he induced the Government to make a survey and borings, which were completed in 1929. Those proposals were submitted to the local authorities principally concerned, that is, the Corporation of Edinburgh and I believe the Fife County Council and other adjacent local authorities; but they were not prepared to go forward with any scheme at that time. Then came, as your Lordships know, what we may call the economic slump of 1930 to 1933. In the year 1930 the Leith Chamber of Commerce appointed a Joint Committee of Inquiry and that Committee reported in 1933 in favour of a road bridge or, alternatively, an improved ferry service. That Committee of Inquiry was transformed in 1934 into a body called the Forth Road Bridge Promotion Committee, which represented many public bodies and important individuals on both sides of the Forth. Of course that Committee had no executive functions. At that time the then Lord Provost of Edinburgh, who was very keenly interested in this scheme, took it up very actively and, together with the Fife County Council, produced a certain scheme which was presented to the Ministry of Transport towards the end of 1935.

Before I deal with that scheme itself, I might say that improvements had been made to the ferry Service (from Inverkeithing) and it was hoped by a good many people that the improvement of that service might take the place of the actual bridge across the Forth. But on the contrary, in spite of the improvements to the ferry service which took place, public opinion in that part of Scotland hardened in favour of a bridge instead of the ferry service, until finally a site called the Mackintosh Rock site, which crosses the Firth of Forth about nine miles to the west of Edinburgh, was selected by the local authorities, and even by the Ministry of Transport itself, as the best site, and a site across which a bridge might be constructed safely, efficiently and effectively. During the investigation the engineers naturally considered the question as to whether the existing Forth Railway Bridge could be utilised for that purpose by the addition of road traffic ways forming part of it; but that scheme was turned down, and ultimately, I think it may be said, everyone agreed that the Mackintosh Rock site was the one that should be adopted for the road bridge.

That site, I agree, will require a bridge of large dimensions. Actually, the longest span will, I understand, be some 1,300 feet, but in these days of big engineering feats that is not a very difficult or even a large exploit, because we find that the bridge across Sydney Harbour has a span of 1,600 feet; the George Washington Bridge in New York, built not long ago, which I have crossed on several occasions, has a span of no less than 3,500 feet, and the Golden Gateway Bridge of San Francisco, which is in course of completion, has a span as long as 4,200 feet. Therefore, that there should be any engineering difficulties in connection with this bridge at that particular site may be put out of account altogether. Personally, I must commend the local authorities for abandoning the ferry system. Noble Lords will, I think, agree that crossing by ferry is to-day an antiquated system and that transport as we know it requires something which offers greater facility and greater ease for traffic. This can only be secured by a bridge over which vehicles may pass without any delay and without any hindrance. To arrive at a ferry, and perhaps be held up for ten or twenty minutes or half-an-hour, and then to take ten minutes to cross a passage which in the ordinary way by road you could cross in three minutes, is not only irritating but seems to-day, in the conditions under which we live, to be unnecessary.

The joint authorities—that is, the Edinburgh Corporation and the Fife County Council—approached the Ministry of Transport towards the end of 1935 with a request for a grant from the Road Fund towards the cost of construction of this bridge, which has been estimated at about £3,750,000, this estimate having been prepared very carefully in every way by one of the most distinguished firms of engineers in this country. In making this request they suggested that as perhaps the Ministry of Transport would not be prepared to give a grant for the whole amount, a small amount of it—say, 10 per cent.—ought to be met from the local rates, and that in order to assist this, the bridge should be a toll bridge for which a reasonable charge should be made in respect of any vehicles crossing it. To-day the cost of the ferry system at Queensferry is for a motor car, according to the size of the vehicle, anything from 3s. to 6s. 6d., and for commercial vehicles of two tons and up to five tons 7s. to 14s. and, if laden, from 12s. 6d. to 30s. a vehicle. The suggestion is that the toll should be a reasonably small one of about 1s. to 1s. 6d. a vehicle. I am quite sure there is not a motor owner or motor driver who would not be prepared to pay that small amount for the convenience of being able to cross the Firth of Forth in any weather and at any moment.

Two or three months after these proposals went to the Ministry of Transport a reply was received to the effect that further information was required. It was for the reason that that information had not been compiled—there had not been sufficient time to do it—that I decided to postpone my Motion until to-day. I am now able to say that that information has been supplied and is in the hands of the Ministry of Transport. Therefore I hope I shall be able to receive a reply from His Majesty's Government to-day in the light of the fuller information with which they have now been supplied.

I should just like to give a few reasons why I believe this bridge to be a national necessity. I would point out to your Lordships that Edinburgh, to which this bridge means so much, is not the capital city of a county but is the Capital City of the Kingdom of Scotland. As such, I believe Edinburgh has a right to be treated in a way different, perhaps, to the capital town of one of the counties of England or Scotland. But when we consider, apart from that and apart from the fact that Edinburgh is tucked away in the corner of the Forth, with the Firth of Forth flowing some sixty-five miles towards the sea, that the roads of exit to the North have to take a circuitous route of anything from thirty to forty miles, and also that the population of Edinburgh itself, taking a radius of eleven miles, and the population to the North of the Forth, likewise taking a radius of eleven miles, reaches a figure of 680,000 people; and, if we go still further, that the population in Scotland that would be served by this bridge north of the Forth would be 940,000 and south of the Forth 790,000, or roughly 1,750,000 altogether, then I venture to suggest that a case for a bridge across the Forth at this point is made out by those facts alone.

But when we consider that the population to be served by that bridge is not confined to the people whom I have mentioned—the large Scottish population to which I have just referred—but includes many others who come from south of the border, that makes my case even stronger still. There are five main routes from England to Scotland and all of them, including even that by Carlisle, converge naturally upon Edinburgh, but any one travelling by road to Perth or Inverness must, unless he risks possible delay by crossing by ferry at Queensferry, go by Stirling, adding at least thirty miles to his journey. I think that general experience has proved that where a bridge has been built across a waterway, with such large populations on either side, the number of vehicles using it has exceeded expectations. We have seen that in every part of the world where bridges have been erected under the same conditions; and if we look nearer home to the Mersey Tunnel, I believe that the estimates of usage there have been exceeded by a very large percentage.

Even the improved ferry service across the Firth of Forth at Queensferry has had its results in three years. I find that whereas in 1931 there were daily 330 vehicles crossing by ferry from Inverkeithing to Queensferry and the converse route, in 1935 these had risen to 1,037, in other words by over 700 vehicles, or more than 200 per cent. Some very careful estimates have been made of the probable number of crossings in the event of this bridge being built, and it is calculated that on an average at least 4,000 vehicles will cross each day if the bridge is built. With a toll of 1s. to 1s. 6d. per vehicle the revenue would reach a figure of between £100,000 and £150,000 a year, which would pay the cost of upkeep and go a long way to reduce the cost to the local ratepayers.

There are other reasons why this bridge would be so useful. There is the fishing industry, which would be very largely developed if it were built. The fishing industry in the East of Scotland produces no less than 44 per cent. of the total catch of herrings and 89 per cent. of all the other fish caught in Scotland. I admit that a considerable part of this can be carried across the present bridge by the railway, but it is perfectly obvious that if you are going to get the best results for the fishing industry, it would be very much quicker to have this fish collected by motor lorry from the fishing centres. This would be of great advantage in distributing an article of food which is of such a perishable nature. The same applies to agricultural produce. By linking up the two sides of the Firth of Forth by a bridge the people of Edinburgh would be able to receive their agricultural produce or some of it in a very much better state probably than they do to-day. From the point of view of the South of Scotland, where we have a large textile industry, the bridge would be of great value. Commercial travellers could pass backwards and forwards without hindrance or delay, and be able to push their goods in the North of Scotland with a celerity which is not possible to-day, when they have to go round the end of the Firth and add an additional thirty or forty miles to their journey. Then there is the question of patients being brought from Fife to the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh. These at present have to go an additional journey of thirty or forty miles. All these points are points of the greatest importance in connection with this bridge.

There is also the question of defence. Now that we are so dependent upon mechanised units surely it would be of great advantage if we had a road bridge across the Firth of Forth, so that these units could pass freely up and down the East of Scotland at a greater speed or with less delay than at present. There is also the question of unemployment. I have been urged to represent this case in this House by the British Steelmakers' Association. They have pointed out to me that the major bridge building portion of their trade is not fully employed to-day and that the construction of this bridge would be of great value to that trade, not only from the point of view of the manufacture of the steel but from that of the labour that would be given to their employees. I have had other representations also. I had representations from the British Legion in Scotland and for the same reason, the question of unemployment. They have been pressing this case for a long time, and they have asked me once more to urge it in your Lordships' House.

I will not weary the House by enumerating any further advantages which would accrue as a result of this bridge, but I should like to touch, if your Lordships will bear with me, on one or two points of criticism which have been made with regard to it. For instance, it has been said that the new Kincardine bridge at Stirling is sufficient for the purpose which the promoters of the Forth Road Bridge have in view. I venture to disagree with that entirely. In the first place when that bridge was built there was no intention that it should take the place of the Forth Road Bridge. But apart from that, it does not in the slightest degree reduce the distance between Edinburgh and Perth, although it does. I admit, reduce the distance between Glasgow and Perth, but by a very small number of miles—namely, ten. But the reason for the Kincardine Bridge was to save the bottle neck at Stirling which had grown very bad indeed. That bridge was put there for that purpose and not for the purpose of forming a substitute for the Forth Road Bridge. Then there is the Tay Bridge. I do not propose to deal with that bridge. It does not form part of my Motion, but I believe that other noble Lords may have something to say about it.

I have received certain objections from friends in the County of Fife who say that they are very much opposed to this bridge. They say that they do not desire the County of Fife to become the corridor of Scotland between the South and the North, and that already there is sufficient noise and trouble to residents in certain parts of Fife which they would not like to see increased. But I suggest to those who write in that strain that they cannot take up an attitude which will delay the whole development and progress certainly of the East of Scotland from North to South, and that if they are placed in this unfortunate position they should try to make the best of it. I would say to them that whereas they may lose in one direction they may gain in another by the improvement in the value of their land. It has also been suggested to me that there may be objections on the part of the London and North Eastern Railway, whose trains cross the present bridge. But that is an old controversy—the controversy of the railways versus the roads—and I would suggest to those who control the London and North Eastern Railway that it is their duty not to obstruct this development which so many of us believe is necessary for the good of Scotland, but to try and co-operate with the omnibus and other large road users, as I believe they have done in other directions, and see whether it is not possible to come to an arrangement with them so as to have a proper co-ordinated system.

There is one other point to which I wish to refer, and that is that quite recently, in another place, the Minister of Transport intimated to the country that His Majesty's Government propose to set up a national trunk road system. Incidentally we are told that that system will include the main north road from London to York and to Edinburgh, and that further section of it from Edinburgh to Inverness. The Minister of Transport at the same time was questioned as to whether roads included bridges, and his reply was that they did. Therefore, while I have to-day been urging the erection of this bridge at the expense of the Road Fund to a very large extent and to a lesser degree at the expense of the ratepayers, it seems to me that possibly the noble Earl who is going to reply to this debate will be able to tell me that this bridge would form part of the Great North Road from London to Inverness, and that the Government would undertake the whole expense from the Road Fund and not part of it only.

I wish to conclude by informing the Government that this subject has really become what I might term a political issue in the East of Scotland. Obviously it is not a political issue in the West of Scotland, because it does not affect the West of Scotland in any great degree or possibly even in any degree at all; but in the East of Scotland, certainly in Edinburgh and the South, and perhaps in a lesser degree in the North, there are many people of all shades of politics who are determined to go on and urge the erection of this bridge and to obtain the erection of it, however long it may take. I do not use those words in any threatening sense. I only wish to convey to the Government the strong feeling that does exist in parts of Scotland and in the minds of a great many people as to the desirability and the necessity for joining up their Capital City of Edinburgh with the North, and to urge the Government to take all possible steps to help those authorities who have gone so far as to draw up a comprehensive scheme, by investigating it carefully and closely, and to arrange as quickly as they are able to put this bridge across the Firth of Forth. I beg to move.


My Lords, the last thing I wish to do, if I may use a mixed metaphor, is to strike a discordant note on the Question put by my noble friend. But there are one or two important points that I would like to emphasise before the noble Earl who is the spokesman for the Government rises to reply. I think it is fairly obvious that if a road bridge is built over the Forth at Queensferry there will have to be eventually a similar bridge over the estuary of the Tay at or near Dundee or, as has been suggested, higher up the river, and that these two projects should be combined in one scheme, the Forth presumably having priority. But the question is, and it is a very serious question, whether the probable traffic will justify this heavy expenditure—more than £3,500,000 for the bridge over the Forth and an unspecified sum for the bridge over the Tay—especially considering the fact that in the month of October, as my noble friend has pointed out, the bridge at Kincardine is to be opened only fourteen miles above the great railway bridge. Then there is the ferry, to which also allusion has been made. That is too expensive, but within the last few years it has been improved beyond knowledge and it could be further improved if it were run more on American lines.

The Kincardine Bridge, I may say, will have cost from first to last under £300,000. With the notable exception of the City of Edinburgh none of the local authorities interested have indicated, as far as I know, how much they are prepared to pay towards the cost of the bridge and approaches, expecting apparently that the Ministry of Transport will certainly provide the great bulk of the funds. In the case of the Kincardine Bridge the Ministry put up 75 per cent., and the County Councils of Fife, Stirling and Clackmannan, with some help from the Burghs of Dunfermline and Falkirk, were left to find 25 per cent. only.

We think that we were in that matter quite generously treated by the Ministry, but of course I admit that the Kincardine Bridge was far more a local affair than this proposal put forward by my noble friend. Therefore, his proposal is perhaps entitled to a higher grant than 75 per cent. if it is to be undertaken. I presume that what is known as the Goschen formula applies to the Road Fund—that is to say, that Scotland is entitled to a sum equal to eleven-eightieths of the amount spent on roads and bridges in England and Wales. I am very much afraid that if a large grant is given to these bridges the rest of Scotland will be starved in so far as grants from the Road Fund are concerned. I have been informed that the Goschen formula does not apply to the Road Fund, but I should like to be assured on that point.

My last point, and I think it is the most important point, has not been alluded to by my noble friend. If the naval bases at Rosyth and Port Edgar are to be retained, as I believe they are, the question arises how will the Admiralty view the existence of two great bridges practically alongside each other between the dockyard and the open sea. Both will be vulnerable from the air in case of war, especially the road bridge which is to be of the suspension type. It might be destroyed by bombs and the channel might be blocked and the naval bases sealed up. That, of course, is only a surmise by a layman on a matter which is one for expert advice. Although the last thing I want to do is to throw cold water on the proposal, I think I have shown some reason why the Government should hasten slowly in this matter. With great respect I suggest that they should wait a year to see what effect the bridge at Kincardine will have on the traffic at present using the ferry, and that in the meantime the Admiralty should definitely state their policy regarding the bridge, for if the Admiralty are averse to the bridge then I presume the promoters will not proceed and much preliminary expenditure will be saved. I am quite certain they will not proceed if the Admiralty consider that the existence or even the development of the naval bases will be jeopardised by the erection of this bridge at Queensferry.


My Lords, I should like in general terms strongly to support the Motion of the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank. It is a project that has been all too long delayed, because the Queensferry crossing forms the essential link which is at present missing in the main eastern highway of Scotland running north and south. As one who makes constant use of the Queensferry crossing—no doubt many of your Lordships do—I can testify to the extreme inconvenience which the present method of transport entails. It is true, as your Lordships have been told, that the ferry service has been very much improved, but in these days of hustle, when time is such an important factor in our lives, it does seem incredible that thousands of tourists and thousands of business men going to and from the Capital of Scotland should be subject to this humiliating treatment of having to wait sometimes twenty minutes or even half-an-hour before they can cross the water. We know that at the best a ferry is only a make-shift. It is not a link in a highway, it is a break in a highway.

One of the chief objections which the opponents of this scheme produce is this. They say that there is not sufficient traffic at present crossing the ferry to warrant the construction of a bridge. Was there ever a more futile argument than that? People do not cross the ferry just because it is a ferry, because it is inconvenient and very expensive. If a road bridge at Queensferry were built there is no knowing how large a volume of traffic this bridge would take—perhaps ten or twenty times the amount of traffic that at present crosses by the ferry. We all know that Scotland in recent years has not enjoyed the same measure of prosperity that her neighbours across the border have enjoyed, but as the noble Viscount has told you, would not this be a unique opportunity to employ thousands of ex-Servicemen who are at present standing idle? Not only could you employ them on the construction of the bridge itself but in the various industries which go to make up the construction of a bridge. What a tonic that would be for the heavy industries of Scotland, if these contracts were placed with Scottish firms. This bridge eventually is bound to come. Let it be to the credit of this National Government that they had the foresight to sanction this scheme which, when it is completed, will be one of the greatest assets our country possesses.


My Lords, I am diffident about interfering in the affairs of Scotland, but I am encouraged in my temerity by finding that the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, is in disagreement with his own race. My noble friend, I think, made some remarkable points in this debate which I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, will be able to substantiate when he rises in his place. There was the question of naval requirements, with which Lord Elibank did not deal, and it is obvious that it is one of the greatest possible importance. In respect of the ferry, it is true that a ferry is a somewhat antiquated and not very convenient mode of progress between two great highways, but noble Lords will remember that the Severn is a great river which separates populations quite as great as those on either side of the Firth of Forth, and the estuary of the Thames severs even greater populations. It appears to me important to ascertain whether the rest of Scotland will not bear out Lord Mar and Kellie's fears that the spending of such a very great sum as will be required will starve the rest of Scotland of the other road improvements for which the country calls.

With regard to the waste of time, those of us who live in the East of England are accustomed to be held up by level crossings. A ferry delays you in your progress, but not so terribly long. Cannot the ferry be doubled, or even trebled, and made free to the public, at vastly less cost than the interest on the expenditure which is called for by the noble Viscount? I feel that the situation has not yet been completely explored, still less exhausted. There is one other point. The noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, appealed to the railway company not to obstruct the building of the road bridge in competition with itself. May I remind him that the Forth bridge does not belong to the London and North Eastern Railway? It is owned by a separate company.


I did not say it belonged to the railway company, but that the company ran its trains across the bridge.


I think my noble friend is quite right, and I beg his pardon if I have misrepresented him, but he did rather stress the point that the railway company should not obstruct this improvement, and I think I am justified in pointing out that the persons who would be most affected are the shareholders whose money and enterprise built the Forth Bridge. It was a highly speculative proceeding, and it is hardly fair that the expenditure of public money should deprive them of the just reward of that enterprise. It fills me with the greatest pleasure that not all Scotland is united on the subject, and I hope that Lord Plymouth, when he comes to reply to the Motion, will be disposed to give it very slight encouragement.


My Lords, I wish to say a very few words, chiefly directed to criticism of my noble friend's proposal as being one of expense to the National Exchequer. Every day we see these projects asking the Government for a million or two, as if there were unlimited funds available for such projects. I consider this to be distinctly a local matter. Lord Elibank in his very carefully reasoned speech told us how the Corporation of Edinburgh and other bodies are very interested in this project. I have also asked the people on my side what they think of it, and they are apparently completely indifferent. Therefore I claim that it is not a national project, which is what I think he claimed it to be. He talks in his Motion of the strength of public opinion, but I cannot agree that the whole Scottish public opinion is in favour of the proposal. It may be on the East coast and in Edinburgh, but that is all. The noble Viscount enumerated the various means of crossing the Forth at the present time, but he never mentioned the Forth Bridge and the North Eastern Railway. The railway can do all the transport that is required already. Also, he never alluded to the extraordinary expense which the public and the ratepayers would be put to in the upkeep of a bridge. I believe that the cost of the painting alone of the Forth Bridge is enormous every year. I do not know the exact figure.


I do not like to interrupt the noble Lord, but I did refer to that and said it would be met out of the toll levied for passage across the bridge.


The noble Viscount went largely into the question of unemployment, and said what a valuable proposal this would be for creating employment. When I see that claimed for any scheme I am always doubtful, because it may mean that you are going to take money away from other projects, and in that way diminish the employment which would be provided by other means. I trust that for the sake of the general weal the Government will keep a stiff lip before they give any acquiescence to this proposal. I quite recognise the noble Viscount's desire to do everything that is best for his country, but I agree with the criticisms of the noble Lord who has just spoken. You have this improved ferry. Lord Elibank talked about people being delayed ten or fifteen minutes, or even twenty minutes, waiting for the ferry, but it is a rather bold proposal, it seems to me, to put forward, that therefore you are to spend we do not know how much money.


Three and three-quarter millions.


It seems to me a rash and costly undertaking to get over a very minor grievance indeed.


My Lords, I hesitate to take part in this debate as I do not live alongside the Forth, and I do not wish to break in any way into the privacy of the "Kingdom of Fife" to which reference has been made this afternoon. The point of view I should like to say a word or two about is the long-distance traffic which will be created by this bridge. Broadly speaking, your Lordships will, I think, agree that the East coast of Scotland is at a considerable disadvantage as the Rivers Forth and Tay have to be gone round in both cases. Generally I am in favour of some scheme to get over that difficulty. The point I wish to make is that when you have got over the Forth, exactly the same difficulty is presented, as the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, said, by the Tay. In the case of the Forth, you have to go twenty-seven miles to Stirling to get across the river; in the case of the Tay you have to go about the same distance from Dundee.

I recognise that some people will say—indeed it has been said to-day—that if the Forth Bridge is built it will necessitate building a bridge across the Tay at Dundee, and that will necessitate the spending of another £2,500,000. It is that point I want to question. There is another way of getting across the Tay and I submit this point deserves very careful consideration. You have the Perth-to-Dundee and the Perth-to-Edinburgh roads, at a point about five and a half miles from Perth, coming very close together—within two or three miles of one another. A bridge span at a comparatively small cost could be put across the Tay at that point in the neighbourhood of Glencarse. I would not like your Lordships to believe that I have anything against a bridge at Dundee—I am all in favour of it—but it is essential to take this additional or alternative route into careful consideration. I look at this question purely as a taxpayer and as a motorist and from a commercial point of view, as an improved route for traffic in Scotland.

There are, in my opinion, three points to be considered—the cost, the distance, and the general usefulness. This bridge would connect up Dundee and Queensferry instead of taking the route through Fife and across a bridge at Dundee. It would come up the Edinburgh-to-Perth road and cross on to the Dundee road by Glencarse. The cost of a bridge at Dundee is in the neighbourhood of £2,500,000. The cost of a bridge at Glencarse, which has been very carefully estimated by one of the best firms, is under £450,000; the actual figure I have here is £336,000. That is a saving of £2,000,000 on the figure which the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, mentioned as the cost for the Dundee Bridge. On the question of cost alone, therefore, I would say that this alternative route deserves consideration.

As to the question of distance, the distance between Queensferry and Dundee by either route is practically identical. By Glencarse it is approximately a mile longer, but practically speaking the distance is the same. On the question of cost, maintenance will be a very important point. The Perth-to-Dundee road is already a trunk road and the Perth-to-Edinburgh road is already a road which is very nearly a trunk road; it is a road of great importance, so that by concentrating on that route it seems to me it will be an economy in maintenance as compared with starting a new trunk road. I would suggest that if this bridge is built this road will very definitely become of such importance that it will be a trunk road throughout. I think the Government should consider the matter now from that point of view.

On the question of general usefulness, this alternative site is on a direct line between Glasgow and Aberdeen. It is as near a straight line as you can get, going over Kincardine, Glenfarg, Glencarse, Dundee, and Aberdeen. That makes it a most important point. There is another point, by using the Perth-to-Dundee road you will bring into use the by-pass road round Dundee. If you go across the Tay at Dundee a bridge there will take you into the heart of Dundee where the railway station is and where the City is most congested. If you come in from the west of Dundee you will make use of the existing by-pass, and that from the point of view of the Ministry of Transport is very important.

Who will benefit by this route that I am suggesting? First of all there is no doubt that all the people along the route from Glasgow to Aberdeen will get the most direct route between those two Cities. You have got a very large industrial population south of the site, and if the erection of the bridge is carried out you will also benefit the south-west of Fife, which is the most industrial area in Fife. A site can be selected which is of equal importance to central Fife, to Kirkcaldy and all that very important district, so that it will benefit central Fife. You will also benefit the Counties of Perth and Angus, which will have a more direct route to Edinburgh. You thus have a great number of people who are going to gain by the construction of a bridge at this point, and I would urge the Government to take into consideration the construction of a bridge across the Tay higher up than Dundee as a possible first step and the Dundee bridge could no doubt very well follow later. It is a bridge, too, that will be founded on rock, whereas a bridge that is built down at the estuary of the Tay will be built upon sand.


My Lords, I have a little hesitation in taking part in this debate because, as your Lordships are aware, the local authorities of Edinburgh, Fife, Kirkcaldy, Dunfermline, and West Lothian have been engaged in investigating this case and in preparing a reply to the questions of the Minister of Transport as regards the economic and traffic justification for this bridge across the Forth at Queensferry. That case has been very carefully investigated by the Committee in charge, a Joint Committee of those local authorities, and has within the last few days been lodged with the Minister. Our case at the moment is a case as between us as local authorities and the Minister, not a case to be debated on the floor of your Lordships' House as representing the rest of Scotland. And, indeed, the Motion on the Paper to-day is essentially one which should be spoken to by representatives of Scotland and others outside the particular local authorities who have been engaged in investigating this case. Put as a complete silence on my part might be misunderstood, not only in this House but in Scotland, I feel that I ought to say a few words as regards the action which I myself have taken and which the County Council of Fife have taken, partly on my advice, in this matter.

The noble Viscount who introduced the debate went over a very wide field in giving the history, and I do not wish to take up your Lordships' time in going over it again, but I have in my possession a large quantity of documents which will prove that very careful investigation has been made of all the possibilities of improving the facilities for crossing the Forth for a great many years back. The noble Viscount, I think, referred to the beginning of this case as 1923, but as a matter of fact I have in my possession a plan for a bridge at Queensferry drawn by an Edinburgh engineer in the year 1818. That was a plan for a bridge on the site now occupied by the Forth Railway Bridge, which is obviously the best site that is attainable, and I think it is very greatly to the credit of those people who associated themselves in the effort fifty years ago to promote the railway bridge which has since then gone, and still goes, by the name of the Forth Bridge. Great credit is due to them, and I am quite aware of the point raised by the only noble Lord from England who has ventured to take part in this debate, that there is the interest of the shareholders in that particular company to be considered. But in considering that, and in paying a tribute to the enterprise, the effort, and the foresight of those who erected the Forth Railway Bridge, are we to admit that every other effort to bring the same kind of development to any other form of transport across the river is for ever to be strangled? I think that is pressing the case too far. That is the only point that I shall put as regards the question of the Railway Company and its shareholders' interests at the moment.

Personally, I do feel that if there were a further opportunity of crossing by some convenient means into Fife there would be a benefit to the Railway Bridge rather than otherwise.

As I have said, I do not wish to take any part in this debate which would seem either to criticise the Minister or to attempt to anticipate the answer which I think he ought to give, and which I am sure he will give, to the local authorities after careful consideration of the case which has been submitted by the local authorities. I think it would be preferable that that answer should be given to those who submitted the case rather than over the floor of your Lordships' House. But I do feel that this is a case that deserves careful consideration, and the only grievance I have against the Ministry of Transport is that after our preliminary talk with the Minister in October last it took him three months fully to make up his mind that it was necessary to ask for further information. Perhaps we were wrong but from the fact, which was referred to by the noble Viscount in introducing the case, that the Minister had himself taken the initiative in the early stages in sending down a reporter to report on the various possibilities and sites for a bridge, we thought, rightly or wrongly, that perhaps for that reason the prima facie case was agreed to by the Minister.

But I take no objection to the fact that he has asked for further information; it was right that he should ask for further information, and we have done our best to try to produce it. I think, however, that in this case he has asked for more information than he has thought fit to ask for in any other similar project. Perhaps if he had insisted on the promoters of the Severn Bridge producing a similar investigation and report that project would not be where it is now. I am more hopeful, from the fact that we have at this stage been faced with the duty of producing these facts, figures and calculations, that we shall be able to discuss them intelligently with the Minister. I am certain that he will give them his careful consideration, and that therefore before we have to go to the stage of meeting a Parliamentary Committee or of promoting a Provisional Order we shall have got through some of the preliminary teething operations which the Severn Bridge and some other developments of this kind have not gone through.

I do not wish to weary your Lordships with details, but I should like, if I may, to correct one mistake which, perhaps inadvertently, was made by the noble Viscount who introduced the debate. He referred to the bridge as being one with a span of 1,300 feet. The plan suggested is 3,000 feet. That indicates a bridge of very considerable magnitude, and from that point of view we feel that it is a bridge which has a national aspect rather than a regional or local aspect. The local authorities have indicated that they are interested in the report which they have made, and they have indicated that they would be prepared to make a contribution. They have not yet had a reply from the Minister as to whether he considers that contribution sufficient, but it is at any rate an earnest of our wishes which he has felt it right to extort, or to emphasise the necessity of. It was felt that the local authorities must show their good faith by saying that they were willing to put up some proportion. Well, we have indicated that we are willing to do so, or at any rate that we are willing to recommend our constituents to do so. We are waiting now, therefore, for the Minister to consider a scheme and to give us his answer.

This is a scheme which cannot be judged merely on traffic statistics. You have to consider it as a scheme of natural development of the resources of the country, and of natural development of the public services. To make a comparison we may regard the growth of postal services, and it is interesting to note the wonderful community of interest which does exist already, in spite of difficulties, between the Kingdom of Fife and the City of Edinburgh. The number of letters and the number of telephone calls are indications of that community of interest. I believe there are no fewer than 1,900,000 letters per day passing between Fife and Edinburgh and over 2,000 telephone calls. That in itself shows the business that is done between those communities, and that there ought to be greater facilities for intercourse between them.

Then I come to the final point which has already been touched upon by two speakers earlier in the debate, the point which was raised by the Minister of Transport himself regarding the trunk road system. This road, which comes from London to Edinburgh and goes on to the North, has been known through history as the Great North Road. As far as Edinburgh it is classified as A1, the first on the list of highways. Then, passing northwards from Edinburgh, we go immediately westwards to Stirling for a distance of over thirty miles in order to go back again that same thirty miles when we reach Perth. If the Minister in taking over what he considers the trunk roads of Great Britain takes over a kink of that kind, in place of a saving by the direct road of something between twenty-five to thirty miles, he is taking over an unnecessary expense. He can save on the mileage between Edinburgh and Perth via Glenfarg a considerable sum, and I suggest that that saving might be put into the construction of the Forth Bridge. As I have said, I only intervene in this debate for the reason that silence on my part might be misunderstood. My County Council's case is with the Minister in the Ministry of Transport, and I would be glad to leave it at that.


My Lords, it would appear from the course of this debate that even the Scottish members of your Lordships' House were not entirely united upon this issue, but I do not wish to dwell upon that point, and I would rather confine myself to attempting to answer some of the various points which have been raised. The noble Viscount's Question divides itself into two parts. In the first part he asks the Government whether they are aware of public opinion upon this particular subject. It is perfectly true that a great many resolutions have been received by the Minister. They have been mainly from local authorities, political and non-political associations, and private individuals, chiefly from Edinburgh and the surrounding districts, which would quite clearly be directly benefited by the proposed new bridge. In the second part of the Question the noble Viscount asks whether a grant from the Road Fund will be made so that work can be started as soon as possible. In this connection I must draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that a grant from the Road Fund would be ineffective without the consent of Parliament. A Private Bill or a Provisional Order promoted by the local authorities would be necessary before any action could be taken, and the final decision would rest with Parliament. I think that here, again, it is interesting to note the case of the Severn Bridge. It would be improper for me to express any view upon the actual merits of that particular scheme, but, as your Lordships know, it came before another place and it was very definitely turned down. I merely mention that to illustrate the fact that in the end it must be Parliament that decides.

This proposal, as has been said, has been under discussion for a great many years. The first really definite proposal that was made was made in 1929, and the scheme that was then put forward was estimated to cost something like £6,000,000. It was owing to the fact that the cost of the scheme was so very high that it was dropped. Since that time, as several of your Lordships have pointed out, a bridge has been built at Kincardine and will be opened quite shortly. This bridge is about twenty-two miles west of Edinburgh and would shorten the journey by road from Edinburgh to Fife by about twenty miles. Nevertheless the question of a bridge at Queensferry has recently been revived and, as the noble Viscount mentioned in introducing this discussion, it was in October of last year that agreement was reached between the local authorities that the Mackintosh Rock site was the best site that could be found. The Minister agrees that if a bridge is to be built at all, this undoubtedly is the most suitable site. The cost of it, I understand, has been estimated at £3,250,000, not £3,500,000 or £3,750,000, as I think the noble Viscount mentioned. But that is not very important at the moment. It has been suggested in some quarters—I say this incidentally—that as the Minister made a grant of a few thousand pounds towards the cost of a preliminary survey, he must, therefore, be considered as committed to making a substantial grant towards the whole scheme. I must say that the Government cannot accept that view, which really cannot in any way be justified. It is quite obvious that an essential preliminary to a final decision on a scheme of this kind must be a knowledge of the probable cost involved, and this can only be estimated after the site of the bridge has been considered and settled upon. This knowledge is certainly now available, but, as I say, it does not put the Minister under any obligation without further investigation to make a contribution towards a scheme of this kind.

As the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie pointed out, the real question is this: Are the advantages which are likely to accrue from the building of this bridge going to be commensurate with the very considerable cost that must be involved? As I have said, the total cost of the bridge is to be something in the nature of £3,250,000 and the suggestions which have been made as far as contributions are concerned are as follows: The local authorities should pay 10 per cent. of the total cost, tolls should meet another 10 or 15 per cent., and the Ministry should contribute 75 or 80 per cent. That 75 or 80 per cent. would amount to something like £2,500,000, which your Lordships will all agree is a very large sum of money. In this connection the noble Earl behind me, Lord Mar and Kellie, referred to the Goschen formula with regard to which I must confess a certain ignorance. I am advised, however, that this formula does not apply to the Road Fund, and to that extent I am able to relieve him.

The Minister, quite naturally, feels that he would not be justified in agreeing to a scheme of this magnitude without the clearest evidence that the expenditure would be to the advantage of the public as a whole and not only to the advantage of the immediate locality. Up till now the Minister has not been convinced that a case has been made out for the bridge. By that I do not mean to say that he has made up his mind and has come to a final decision against the scheme, but that he has not been convinced that a strong enough case has been made out. Before he committed himself definitely he was naturally anxious to consider any detailed evidence which the promoters might wish to submit to him which might justify the project both on economic and on traffic grounds. It was for that reason that these views of his were communicated to the Town Clerk of Edinburgh in February this year. That evidence has just come to hand. As a matter of fact it arrived at the Ministry on Friday last. It consists of three volumes and about forty appendices, and if the noble Viscount thought that in two and a half working days the Minister would be able to digest, fully consider and give his decision upon them I can only look upon him as something of an optimist. The Minister is naturally very anxious to give this evidence the very fullest consideration and I think your Lordships will agree that he has not had sufficient time up to now to place himself in a position to give a decision upon the matter.

He would like information on a number of different points in connection with the building of the bridge. It is perfectly true that the Forth Road Bridge Promotion Committee submitted to him an estimate that in their opinion something like 4,000 vehicles would use the bridge every day. This Committee—I am not saying anything in derogation of it at all—is composed mainly, I understand, of trading and commercial interests in the Edinburgh district. It cannot be considered in any sense an official committee and it does not carry any direct responsibility for this project. Therefore I think your Lordships will agree that obviously the Minister would not be justified in reaching a conclusion on the statement of this body alone. The kind of points upon which the Minister would like to have elucidation—and no doubt elucidation is provided in the evidence now submitted to him—are these: First he wants to know, as has been suggested by noble Lords already to-day, what effect the opening of the Kincardine bridge is likely to have upon the situation. He also wants a careful estimate by a responsible and official body as to the extent to which the bridge is likely to be used. He would like to know how far traffic would be likely to be additional to the normal traffic, and how far it would be traffic diverted from other routes or from other forms of transport; and in this respect it is perhaps germane to mention that the railway companies have estimated that the loss to them would be over £300,000 annually. Furthermore, it is quite clear I that the existing ferry would be jeopardised and it is also considered likely that coastwise shipping would suffer to some extent.

I mention these facts because they are relevant to this discussion. In addition, the Minister would like to have the definite proposals of the promoters with regard to what suitable tolls might be imposed upon vehicles using the bridge. He is also greatly interested in the general social and economic developments which might be expected to follow the building of this bridge. It is of great importance and relevance to know whether the bridge would confer benefits upon the area as a whole or would merely result in the shifting of trade from one side of the Firth to the other. Then another very important matter, as some noble Lords have pointed out this afternoon, is the likely effect upon local employment. There is on the one side the possible reduction in the number of railway, ferry and shipping workers, and on the other side there is to be placed the number of people who would be employed directly and indirectly as a result of the building of this bridge. It is estimated that the construction of the bridge would give employment to 1,000 men directly and to 1,200 indirectly for five years. There is then the naval aspect of this question which has been referred to by the noble Earl who sits behind me and by Lord Hastings. I can assure your Lordships that this point has not been lost sight of.

These are the kind of points upon which the Minister would like further information and with regard to which no doubt information is provided in the documents which have now been submitted to him. I really feel that there is nothing further I can add at this moment. It would be useless for me, I think, to go into a mass of details and try to argue them here across the floor of your Lordships' House. As the noble Earl opposite said, this is at the present stage a matter between the local authorities who have the intention of promoting the project and the Minister, and I can assure your Lordships—an assurance which I know you will accept—that the Minister will give the most careful consideration to the evidence which is now being submitted to him. I can further assure your Lordships that there will be no avoidable delay in coming to a decision. I may also say that this debate will be brought to his direct attention, and that all the points which have been made by various speakers, particularly by Lord Kinnaird with regard to the bridge over the Tay, will not be lost sight of: In the circumstances, and in the actual situation in which we find the negotiations, I think your Lordships would not expect me to say anything more than I have said this afternoon.


My Lords, I do not regret at all that I have raised this Motion to-day, especially after the interesting debate that it has produced. I confess that I am a little disappointed with the reply given by the noble Earl, because it seems to me that he is asking or has asked the joint authorities to do something which is not within the power of any human being, and that is, to provide definite estimates of something that is going to happen when something else has occurred. We can all take figures and juggle with them, and say that they mean one thing or another, and we can form estimates accurate to a degree, but it is quite impossible to take a subject like a bridge and to say definitely what the result upon the traffic is going to be, after that bridge has been erected and ready for use, say two or three years hence. I venture to suggest that you must, in treating such a subject, to some extent take as the basis of any estimate of what may happen the fact of what has happened in similar circumstances in other places. I venture to suggest that what the Government require in this case is not only estimates but vision, and that if they would add some vision to the estimates which they have received from the joint committee possibly we might have a satisfactory solution of the proposals which have been submitted to them.

I do not think I can add anything to what has been said this afternoon. I feel that the noble Earl, Lord Elgin, answered a number of points which were put in the course of the debate, and a number of points were also answered by the noble Earl who spoke for the Government. I would like to say this, though, with reference to the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Lamington, that he had come across no one interested in this bridge. He must remember that he lives in a part of Scotland where naturally they would not be particularly interested in such a bridge. If he wishes to go to Perth or the North obviously he goes to Lanark and Stirling, and certainly would not divert his path to take a long detour round to Edinburgh and across the ferry. Accordingly I ask the Government not to attach too much importance to his expression of opinion with regard to this particular bridge. With those few words I wish again to urge upon the Government that they should give the most careful consideration to this matter. I do not regret in the very slightest degree that I have raised this question now, because if I had not done so the whole subject might have gone by default by the autumn, after consideration of it without the support which it has received from myself and certain noble friends who have spoken for the Motion to-day. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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