Bus proves to be half an hour quicker than predicted.
Ministers have thanked the public for their patience and co-operation after the travel plan which came into force following the closure of the Forth Road Bridge kicked into gear.
The comprehensive plan includes extra bus services and train journeys. Following the first morning rush since the travel plan came into action, it has emerged that buses using the priority routes have much better journey times proving to be half an hour faster than predicted, demonstrating the effectiveness of the bus prioritisation. There is also capacity for additional bus passengers with access to buses much easier from Ferrytoll park and ride.
People are encouraged to use public transport and where possible avoid peak travel times, or consider car-sharing or working from home until the bridge reopens.
A new website (available here - http://ow.ly/VxxYN) enables commuters to find all of the information they need to plan their commute until the New Year when the bridge is scheduled to reopen.
Other developments include:
- Transport Minister, Derek Mackay has offered to make a statement to Parliament tomorrow
- Investigation and testing works are progressing well. Repair works will commence next week, once the design has been finalised and an access platform has been put in place
- Ministers have asked the UK Government to take forward an HGV drivers hours relaxation related to the Forth Bridge closure, which could be introduced this week
- The Deputy First Minister, John Swinney will chair a call with key business leaders and representatives to discuss what more can be done to support the economy during the closure.
Speaking from the TrafficScotland control centre after overseeing this morning's operation and attending the latest Ministerial resilience meeting, Transport Minister Derek Mackay said:
"I believe our comprehensive travel plan has been effective but will be subject to constant monitoring, review, and adaptation. We recognise many people are travelling earlier, therefore an early morning train will be added to the timetable by ScotRail, along with 8,000 extra seats. Full details will be available on their website today.
"I appreciate many commuters and businesses are facing longer journeys, queues, disruption and delays, and are generally being inconvenienced by the necessary closure. I have to stress that without this closure at this time, it's highly likely we would need to eventually close the bridge for a much longer period.
"Although the extra train and bus services have helped ease the strain, delays are inevitable during December. This morning, there was extra capacity on the buses from Halbeath and Ferrytoll and we would encourage people to consider using these services. Bus journey times are also quicker than expected, thanks to the priority route on the A985.
"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. Following a review of the travel plan in light of today's traffic conditions we have agreed to relax the restrictions on the A985 between Longannet and Cairneyhill 8 PM and 5 AM.
"What is clear from the first morning of operations is that using the priority routes, bus journey times are much quicker than expected. We also know that there is still plenty of space on the buses for more passengers while reduced fares could make this more appealing option for the public.
"Having reviewed how the transport network performed this morning the evidence shows that travel was much busier earlier on than towards the end of the morning peak across both road and rail. If possible, people are advised to consider travelling later and outside of peak times if possible.
"I also accept not everyone can work from home or delay their journeys to avoid peak periods, however through carefully planning journeys, considering travelling at different times or considering other options such as car sharing and working from home, I believe we can get through this."
Deputy First Minister John Swinney chaired today's resilience meeting. He said:
"We know this is a challenging time for businesses and commuters, and members of the Road Haulage Association, especially in the run-up to Christmas.
"We are in regular contact with the main business organisations in Scotland, local authorities and enterprise agencies and are working together to share information about the economic and business impact and identify any practical steps that can be taken to mitigate that as much as possible. Tomorrow I will speak with key representatives to get their early feedback.
"As part of this partnership we are progressing resilience discussions with large employers and that includes those whose distribution systems will be affected as we recognise the key role the freight transport industry plays enhancing productivity and delivering economic growth.
"We have circulated updated transport information to the business bodies and others over the weekend, and will follow that up with more dialogue this week."
A spokeswoman for Stagecoach said:
"The extra bus operations have worked well this morning with journey times between Fife and Edinburgh taking less time than originally estimated thanks to the bus priority measures in place on the Kincardine Bridge.
"With more than 30 additional buses in place and reduced fares, we continue to encourage people to use public transport which should be faster than driving and can improve journey times for all road users."
The travel plan can be read here – http://ow.ly/VxxYN
For live updates follow @trafficscotland on Twitter
The Scottish Government's Ready Scotland website provides the public with a range of advice and information on preparing for winter weather. Further information is available at www.readyscotland.org
For real time journey information visit www.trafficscotland.org, follow @trafficscotland on Twitter or call 0800 028 14 14
Additional measures at a glance:
Additional rolling stock will see new train services put in place by Scotrail between Cowdenbeath and Haymarket that will, when combined with existing services, put an additional 6,500 seats per day into operation. This will increase rail passenger capacity by 40 per cent over the period of the bridge's closure.
In agreement with the Confederation of Passenger Transport and Stagecoach, 33 additional buses will support a 10 minute bus shuttle service between Inverkeithing rail station and Halbeath Park and Ride and Halbeath Park and Ride and Edinburgh. This will provide an extra 11,000 seats. This will be facilitated by road management measures to give priority to buses and HGVs, such as a new dedicated corridor on the A985.
Transport Scotland also confirmed that additional measures will be taken including enhanced maintenance and the provision of traffic information signs will be deployed to keep traffic flowing and to provide drivers with journey information on the diversion routes.
Engagement with business groups and local authorities will be stepped up over the course of this week, with a round table to be convened via conference call on Tuesday.