A comprehensive travel plan to address the impact of the necessary Forth Road Bridge closure has been launched by Transport Minister Derek Mackay, who also encouraged people to plan their journeys carefully and to allow time for a longer commute to work.
Mr Mackay announced that commuters and businesses could access a dedicated website that gives full details of new rail services between Fife and Edinburgh, more frequent park and ride services and new arrangements on the road diversion routes.
The Minister warned however that people would still experience slow moving diversion routes and high demand for busy public transport.
The website enables commuters to find all of the information they need in time to plan their commute on tomorrow (MOnday) morning and for the duration of the period the bridge is closed.
The Transport Minister also announced that a dedicated corridor for HGVs and buses would operate on the A985, supported by additional bus provision co-ordinated by Stagecoach.
The operation of the corridor will be monitored by Transport Scotland and discussed further with businesses at a round table business meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
Diversion routes for other traffic on that road would be put in place and information given to local residents about access.
Mr Mackay reiterated that it was right to close the bridge on safety grounds and warned that delays and queues at train and bus stations were inevitable throughout the period of closure. He thanked commuters and businesses affected for their patience and urged them to plan their journeys in advance to minimise disruption.
He said: “Since we took the necessary decision to close the Forth Road Bridge on safety grounds, the patience and co-operation displayed by the travelling public and affected businesses is appreciated, but there is no doubt people will continue to experience disruption over this period.
“A significant amount of work has been put in to deliver additional resources for commuters and businesses that need to travel and we have been able to add additional resources for public transport routes between Fife and Edinburgh.
“This includes 6,500 more seats a day on ScotRail trains and an additional 33 buses supplied through Stagecoach and bringing 11,000 more seats on key services.
“Full details of the additional services are on the website which offers detailed information on the available travel options, including new timetables for the enhanced rail services.
“We are putting in place as many measures as possible to help this situation but these will only be effective if we have the support of the public. Through carefully planning journeys, considering travelling at different times or considering other options such as car sharing and working from home, even though there will still be delays, we can all work together to come through this challenging situation.
“I would like to thank the travelling public, businesses and local residents for their help in managing this difficult situation.
“Police Scotland have been working with Transport Scotland to ensure that traffic management systems on the diversion routes are as robust as possible. Please consider the restrictions in your journey plans, factoring in more time to get to where you are going, even if you are opting to leave the car at home.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and work with partners including local authorities, transport operators, businesses and the travelling public to adapt our travel plan as required. With their help, we will also monitor the economic and business impact and identify any practical steps that can be taken to mitigate that as much as possible.”
Phil Verster, managing director of the ScotRail Alliance, said: “These are exceptional circumstances and we have taken exceptional steps to address them. We want to help keep Scotland moving during the bridge closure.
“With the measures we are announcing today, I hope we can achieve that.
“By bringing in other trains from across the UK, pulling trains from our major refurbishment programme and, regrettably, moving a small number of trains from other parts of the network, we have managed to add an extra forty per cent capacity on our trains in and out of Fife.
“This is an extra 6500 seats each and every weekday.
“I’m really grateful to my staff who have worked day and night to achieve this and to our customers for the patience they have shown while we put these plans in place.”
Sam Greer, Stagecoach regional director for Scotland, said: “The Forth Road Bridge is an absolutely vital transport link for Scotland and we are doing all we can to play our part in helping people and businesses continue to travel.
“We are providing 11,000 extra seats every day between Fife and Edinburgh as well as cutting prices by up to 50%. Along with trucks, our services will also be given priority over the Kincardine Bridge, helping to speed up journeys.
“Our services between Inverkeithing Station and Ferrytoll park and ride will also be free in order to provide extra parking for those travelling by rail. “We’ve also published in depth travel advice on our website to help people make informed decisions.
“We hope these extraordinary measures will encourage more people to travel by public transport, reducing congestion on the roads and helping everyone continue to travel in the run up to Christmas.”
Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said: “Police Scotland is continuing to support partners including Transport Scotland and Amey in keeping diversionary routes open and running safely whilst the Forth Road Bridge is closed.
“With new diversions coming into force tomorrow morning, there will be Road Policing officers working with Amey traffic management colleagues all along these routes and in the Traffic Scotland control centre, plus we will be deploying further Road Policing officers to patrol the diversionary routes and affected parts of the road network to assist in keeping the traffic flowing.
“Together we will monitor how the plans are working and will respond to any incidents which do occur. We do expect a certain amount of delays, but will continue to assess and adapt accordingly to help traffic keep moving.
“I would urge anyone who needs to travel tomorrow morning to plan ahead - consider public transport, check the weather conditions and leave plenty of time for your journey. Many people will be driving on unfamiliar, busy roads and so please take extra care. “Traffic Scotland’s new dedicated microsite has information on the options available, and there will be additional matrix signs out and radio travel bulletins once you have started your journey.”